Monthly Archives: October 2015

PGCPS Teen Died Protecting His Mother, Charging Documents Say


Keyshaun Mason is pictured above

The Maryland teen stabbed to death by his mother’s boyfriend died trying to protect his mother, according to charging documents and family members.

Keyshaun Mason, who had just started his freshman year at Potomac High School, died Monday morning after police say his mother’s boyfriend stabbed him and his 18-year-old brother when they tried to break up an argument.

Police said Sean Crawford, 48, stabbed the brothers inside the home they shared on the 600 block of Audrey Lane in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

“My kids responded. They did what they felt was needed to see if I was safe,” mother Lakisha Jenkins said Tuesday. “Keyshaun was a very caring person. He would do whatever he possibly thought he needed to do if he cared about you.”

Oxon Hill Man Killed Girlfriend’s Teen Son, Police Say

Oxon Hill Man Killed Girlfriend's Teen Son, Police Say

Neighbor Alexis Black says yelling could be heard coming from the home at the time of the incident

According to the charging documents, the victims tried to help Jenkins after she and Crawford argued all night and into the morning. At some point, police say Crawford grabbed a kitchen knife and barricaded himself and the Jenkins inside a bedroom.

Mason and his brother forced their way into the bedroom and tried to ask Crawford to leave. Crawford then stabbed Mason in the chest and his brother in the shoulder in front of their mother, police said.

Officers were called to the scene about 7:25 a.m. Monday. Mason was pronounced dead on the scene. His brother was treated and released and was recovering on Tuesday at his father’s house.

Mason loved football and played on the team at Potomac High.

Prince George’s County has the highest domestic violence rate of any county in Maryland, prosecutors said. Children being killed in domestic incidents is all too common in the area, prosecutors say.

“What we’re seeing increasingly is having children who are killed. We’ve had four children in the last 18 months in this exact same scenario, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrook said.

Jenkins suggested she had thought she could help Crawford, who prosecutors say has a record for domestic crimes in Maryland and D.C.

“We have had a short-time relationship, however there are some things you feel maybe you can contribute to a person to help them in any form or fashion, and I think sometimes you never think helping someone will end up in this manner,” Jenkins said.

After speaking about her son on Tuesday, the distraught mother collapsed and needed to be carried away.

Crawford, who prosecutors said has a history of domestic violence in Maryland and D.C., has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first- and second-degree murder. He is being held without bond and faces life in prison without parole if convicted. It was not clear if he has an attorney.

>> Read moredaily mail UK,  NBC4


Keyshaun Mason died Monday morning after he was allegedly attacked inside an Oxon Hill, Maryland, home by his mother’s live-in boyfriend, 48-year-old Sean Crawford (shown here)


Charter School Black Hole: CMD Special Investigation Reveals Huge Info Gap on Charter Spending –


Madison, WI (CMD) – Today the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is releasing a special report on its year-long investigation into charter schools spending in the United States. You can access the full report “Charter School Black Hole” here.

CMD, a national investigative group that conducts in-depth investigations into the influence of corporations, trade groups, and PR firms on media and democracy, found that the public does not have ready access to key information about how their federal and state taxes are being spent to fuel the charter school industry since charters began almost 25 years ago.

Indeed, no one even knew how much the federal government had spent on its program designed to boost the charter sector. So CMD reviewed more than two decades of federal authorizations and appropriations to calculate the sum, which is now more than $3.7 billion—as noted in this new report. CMD also found that the federal government was not providing the public with a list of all the charter schools that received federal tax monies and how much.

CMD also found that many states have not provided the public with ready information about the amounts of federal funding each charter has received under the federal “Charter School Program” (CSP) for state education agencies (SEAs), and that most states have not provided the public with information about the amounts in state and federal tax dollars that have been diverted to charters rather than spent strengthening traditional public schools.

What is even more troubling is how difficult it is to find essential information on how some charters have spent federal and state tax dollars, even as governments continue to increase funding for charters while slashing funds for traditional public schools. Unlike truly public schools that have to account for prospective and past spending in public budgets provided to democratically elected school boards, charter spending of tax monies is too often a black hole.

This is the largely due to the way the charter industry has been built by proponents, favoring “flexibility” over rules. That flexibility has allowed an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools. Charters are often policed—if they are really policed at all—by charter proponents, both within government agencies and within private entities tasked with oversight as “authorizers” of charters.

In this investigation, CMD pursued numerous open records requests under federal or state law about how much federal CSP money had been given to charters and how that money was spent in 12 states. As a result, CMD found that public information about funds received and spent by charters is severely lacking. It also documented how little is known about spending by closed charters, and identified “ghost” schools, where federal grants were awarded to charters that never opened.

“The bottom-line is taxpayers know far too little about how much their federal tax dollars are being used to fund charters and there is far too little information provided by states about how tax monies are being spent by charters or by for-profit firms they are tied to,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of CMD. “Neither the federal government nor the states require charters to publish that information on their websites and neither the federal or state governments we examined publish that information themselves. Even aside from serious questions about academic performance by charters—especially online charters—the lack of real accountability remains a real problem for kids and families, as more and more people and corporations have sought to get a piece of pie, a revenue stream from taxpayer money, to operate or assist charters.”

Below are a few key findings from the report:

Michigan: In 2011 and 2012, $3.7 million in federal taxpayer money was awarded to 25 Michigan “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The organizations behind these schools received at least $1.7 million, according to the state expenditure database. WestEd—a private company that contracts with the U.S. Department of Education to monitor how states comply with federal regulations—flagged this as a potential problem, but the agency did little to address the problem. After verbal assurances that this would not happen again, the federal agency assured the Michigan Department of Education “that there will not be any additional follow-up.”

Ohio: Out of the 88 schools created by planning and implementation grants under CSP between 2008 and 2013, at least 15 closed within a few years; a further seven schools never even opened. These charters received more than $4 million in federal taxpayer money. Despite this track record, Ohio landed the biggest one-year grant by far in the 2015 competition for federal funding: $32.6 million. CMD can reveal that part of the reason Ohio won the grant was a glowing endorsement from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA)—an organization that had previously referred to the charter system in Ohio as “broken.” But NACSA was more than willing to take that back as long as the Ohio Department of Education signed a $40,000-a-year deal. The deal was brokered by former NACSA senior executive and lobbyist David Hansen only days before he resigned as head of the Ohio Office of Quality School Choice amid accusations of having manipulated charter school performance data.

 California: More than $4.7 million in federal taxpayer money was handed out to create charter schools that subsequently closed within a few years. CMD’s investigation found that California’s record on charters is marked by continued failures, including squandering of taxpayer money, along with deference to unaccountable authorizers and resistance to federal efforts to mandate better state oversight.

Wisconsin: More than $2.5 million in CSP money was used to create charter schools that shuttered shortly thereafter. In addition to the school closings, at least one of the schools created by federal charter school money was a former religious school that has since “converted” to charter status so as to be eligible for funding, an audit obtained by CMD shows. There appears to have been no regular evaluations about whether such conversions in Wisconsin–and also Texas–affect the content of the instruction or not.

Indiana: At least $2.2 million was awarded to charters that either closed or never opened. In addition, emails obtained by CMD through a public records request to Gov. Pence’s office found troubling examples of how the private charter sector, notably for-profit chain Charter Schools USA, influences on policy-making.

New York State: CMD discovered that almost every single application for the New York subgrants was written by the same multi-million-dollar charter consultancy firm: Charter School Business Management. The nature of CSP funding competition means that charter schools relying on private contractors for services, such as grant-writing and budgeting, can gain a competitive edge.

Colorado: State leadership responsible for managing the federal charter school grants fought legislation that would have advanced charter school oversight and accountability, emails obtained by CMD show.

The report also reviews federal charter spending in Arizona, District of Columbia, Florida, Texas and Utah.

Read the full report here.

Click here for a complete state-by-state list of charter schools that were created by CSP SEA seed money in the 2010-2015 grant cycle. Dozens of these “schools” never opened to students in the first place, and many of the schools that did open have since closed.

For an updated tally of the $3.7 billion disbursed under the CSP umbrella since the inception of the program, click here.

Click here for emails from Ohio’s Office of Quality School Choice, detailing the role NACSA and David Hansen, who resigned in July amid accusations of having manipulated data on charter school “success,” played in securing the biggest federal charter grant in 2015.

For further information contact: Jonas Persson,

– See more at:


PGCPS Teen fatally stabbed in Pr. George’s;

CrawfordSean Crawford the mother’s boyfriend arrested. 

A 14-year-old boy was fatally stabbed Monday in Prince George’s County, and his mother’s live-in boyfriend was arrested in the killing, police said.

Keyshaun Mason, a high school freshman, died after an apparent argument erupted in the apartment where he lived in the 600 block of Audrey Lane in the Oxon Hill area, police said. A second teenager, Keyshaun’s 18-year-old brother, was stabbed and wounded in the incident.

Police said they arrested Sean Crawford, 48, the man who they said was the mother’s live-in boyfriend. He faces a charge of first-degree murder in Keyshaun’s death, along with attempted first- and second- degree murder in connection with the wounding of Keyshaun’s brother, police said.

Police arrived at Audrey Lane about 7:25 a.m. after a domestic stabbing was reported. They said that when they got there, they found Mason and another teen wounded.

Both teens were taken to a hospital, where Mason was pronounced dead. His brother, who was not named, was treated and released.

A third teen also was in the apartment at the time of the incident, according to Prince George’s fire department spokesman Mark Brady, but she was not taken to a hospital.

Mason was a student at Potomac High School, according to officials with Prince George’s County Public Schools. Principal Robynne Prince sent a letter to parents informing them that counseling would be available for students “as long as necessary.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” Prince wrote in the letter.

On Monday morning, yellow tape blocked off the apartment area as police technicians searched for evidence.

A neighbor in the complex — Dante Anderson, 28 — said he heard someone screaming “Get off of me!” Monday morning outside his apartment building.

“There was a lot of yelling,” Anderson said. “Whatever it was, it was something serious.”

Another neighbor, Frederick Rainey, 37, said he was jogging Monday morning when he ran past a girl covered in blood and saw a teen on a stretcher being taken for medical attention.

Read more Washington Post; WTOP; 


Healthcare union files temporary restraining order against Dimensions


LAUREL— Local citizens and healthcare union representatives are looking to use the court system to turn the tables on Dimensions Healthcare and the downsizing of the Laurel Regional Hospital.

The 1199 Service Employment International Union (SEIU) of United Healthcare Workers East partnered with citizens to file a temporary restraining order to block the downsizing of the Laurel Regional Hospital from a full acute care center to an ambulatory outpatient facility.

The lawsuit claims Dimensions, which is a privately owned company, is in violation of a lease agreement in accordance to Prince George’s County Code. CR-96-1978 in the county’s charter says that county health facilities may not close or substantially reduce services without prior written approval from the county council sitting as the board of health.

A health facility may close without board of health approval if it is clearly indicated within the county’s budget; however, the county’s budget did not indicate any need in reduction of health services at any county facilities.

“Dimensions is obligated to provide the services provided at Laurel Regional Hospital at the time the County and Dimensions entered into the lease agreement for the county hospital system,” the complaint said. “Plaintiffs will be irreparably harmed by the conversion of the Laurel Regional Hospital into an ambulatory care center because they will be deprived of the care available at a full-service hospital.”

Erika Murray, a spokeswoman for Dimensions, said that the company has not formally received the complaint as of yet, so there have been no discussions on how they will approach the matter.

“As you can imagine, we do not comment on pending litigation,” Murray said. “We will need some time to review all materials.”

Paula Adams, a Laurel resident and a plaintiff in the case, said the loss will be especially devastating to her as an 81 year old. Laurel Regional Hospital is where she gets her primary care, she said.

“I’m 81 years old and Laurel Regional is my medical home where I see my cardiologist and orthopedist,” Adams said. “I don’t know what I would do without the staff and services there.”

Dimensions signed a lease agreement with the county in 1992 for the land where Laurel Regional Hospital, Bowie Health Center and Prince George’s Hospital are located. The lease states Dimensions is obligated to provide “community services,” according to the complaint, which includes healthcare.

Last week, at a community forum, citizens of Laurel and public officials came together to ask for Governor Larry Hogan’s help on the issue. Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the decision to close the full service hospital is another failure of Dimensions executives to operate in an efficient manner.

“It was made in closed door sessions with no community involvement without discussions with local elected officials,” Moe said. “I question why the Dimensions leadership failed to provide the public with full disclosure of the information contained in the consultant’s scope of work.”

Moe previously stated he would like to see another healthcare company replace Dimensions in Prince George’s County, saying “it is time for Dimensions Healthcare to go.”

Moe is not the only local leader who is not satisfied with Dimensions’ process or decision to downsize the Laurel Regional Hospital. State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk said this decision is why Governor Hogan is being called on for help.

As a nine-year member of the state health committee, Pena-Melnyk said she is in contact with Dimensions regularly and never heard about the decision to close the hospital prior to the first announcement on July 31.

“Our community needs transparency and more information about how the decision to close Laurel Regional Hosptial was made,” Pena-Melnyk said.

The reason for the downsizing is to cut costs for Dimensions. Laurel Regional Hospital has cost the private healthcare company $108 million over the last 10 years according to Neji Moore, president of Dimensions Healthcare.

Removing acute care from the hospital was one of four options that did not completely disband the hospital’s services, but cut costs nonetheless.

Judge C. Philip Nichols, chairman of the Dimensions board, said Dimensions has lost too much money from keeping the Laurel Regional Hospital in operation. This has been a very difficult time for Dimensions, he said.

“We were compared to thieves in the night and that is really inappropriate. This is a very logical, sound and data-based decision,” Nichols said. “Less than 10 percent of our population service area goes to Laurel hospital. Any business that loses $108 million has failed a long time ago.”

Dimensions plan would downsize the Laurel Hospital to an outpatient facility which would include a $24 million ambulatory care facility by 2018. The hospital would need to reduce the amount of inpatient beds to just 30.

The complaint indicates that 55 employees have already been terminated from Laurel Regional Hospital as a result of current reductions. It is estimated that an additional 40 members will lose their jobs by November 7, according to the complaint.

Via Prince George’s County Sentinel. 


Members of the Laurel community gathered recently in a new push to fight back against the closing of Laurel Regional Hospital in Prince George’s county due to corruption. Dimensions leadership failed to provide the public with full disclosure of the information contained in the consultant’s scope of work which is a violation of Maryland law. 7a5e3-judgenichols

The Hon. Judge C. Philip Nichols, chairman of the Dimensions board, said Dimensions has lost too much money from keeping the Laurel Regional Hospital in operation.“We were compared to thieves in the night and that is really inappropriate. This is a very logical, sound and data-based decision,” Nichols said. “Less than 10 percent of our population service area goes to Laurel hospital. Any business that loses $108 million has failed a long time ago.”


Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO defends quality of lunches

– It is National School Lunch Week and the head of Prince George’s County Public Schools got involved and stopped by to have lunch with students at a middle school in Bowie.

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell sat down for a meal with students at Benjamin Tasker Middle School and he invited FOX 5 along.

The visit is part of National School Lunch Week and those selected to sit with him were happy with their meals.

FOX 5 has aired several reports about student complaints over the quality of the school lunches. Students have been posting on social media about food that look unappetizing or appear to show mold.

School officials said they have yet to verify whether photos posted this week are in fact from county schools. But the images are already getting attention.

“I’m glad it’s growing because other kids from other counties that are eating good lunch, they are like, ‘Wow, what are these kids eating?’” one student told us.

Maxwell said his staff is working to determine where each photo came from and whether there is in fact a problem.

In the past few weeks, at least one case of moldy bread has been confirmed.

“It should not have been served and we have made that clear and we’ve taken the actions that we think will make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Maxwell.

He said federal guidelines calling for fewer preservatives and less salt have made the food healthier, but it has also led to some adjustments for staff.

“You used to be able to get bread and have it delivered and lasted for a long time because of the preservatives,” Maxwell said. “My assumption is that we have some shorter cycles of delivery. We probably have some storage issues that are a little bit different.”

The county has more than 128,000 students and many of them are fed multiple times a day.

“The percentages, you see ten pictures or you see 12 pictures, they represent a really, really tiny percentage of the number of meals, the number of items that we serve,” said Maxwell.

Students we spoke with at random outside of Bowie High School all seemed to think the quality of food could be better.

“I’ve seen mold on a burger once,” said one student.

“You go to eat the chicken patty and it’s like hollowed out,” one student complained.

“The pizza, half of it was cooked and the other half wasn’t,” recalled another student. “I asked to get another one and they were like, ‘No, you have to pay for this and get out of line.’”

“I wish I could say 100 percent, but the absolutely vast majority of meals we serve are good, nutritious, there’s no issues with them,” said Maxwell.

I sampled turkey lasagna, French fries and a fruit cup today. It wasn’t five-star restaurant quality, but typical cafeteria food.

A full serving of lunch costs student $3 dollars daily. For any students out there with complaints about the food, continue to send them to Dr. Maxwell and provide information that includes the school where it come from and the date it was served.

Via Fox 5

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Number of Black Teachers Rapidly Declines as Minority Students Increase.

image_7_t750x550The number of minority teachers has declined since 1987, even though the minority student population has grown 17 percent over the same time period. (Courtesy Photo)

The minority population has grown tremendously since the year 2000. According to the Census Bureau, the Hispanic population growth is due to U.S. births–and Asian population growth is due primarily to immigration since 2012. That alone has fueled a 5 percent population growth in the overall population of these groups nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center.

Although there are probably many byproducts of this population growth, one of major concern is the effect that it has had on our education system in nine major cities in the United States.

In a study by the Albert Shankar Institute, it was found that though the population for minority students has increased continually and for the first time this past school year has outnumbered their white counterparts, the number of Black teachers has declined.

The cities included in this study were Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington D.C., which represent some of the largest school districts in the US.

The student population has continued to diversify, and there has been moderate attention given to the disparity that exists between white and non-white school systems. However, it has gone under the radar that minority teachers have declined although the minority student population has grown 17 percent since 1987.

Hispanic teachers have continued to increase but not at the rate of population growth of Hispanic students. Black teachers have borne the biggest burden during the recession. It should be noted that during the same time frame between 2003 and 2011, white teacher hiring in these systems grew, and in some cases doubled in largely minority settings.

The cities represented in the study have large education districts with large minority populations. There have been recruiting efforts conducted over the last decade with some success. But, the retention of these teachers continues to be low which offsets the relative success of the recruiting effort. To add insult to injury, due to the lack of experience of teachers in these districts, there have been funding challenges and educational outcomes have been substandard.

via informer.


Convicted ex-Chicago school boss’ DPS term scrutinized


A former Detroit Public Schools official who pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding the Chicago school system faces scrutiny over her tenure in Detroit.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was the chief academic and accountability auditor for DPS from 2009-11, was convicted of one count of fraud in federal court. Federal authorities alleged that as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, she steered $23 million in no-bid contracts to two education firms in return for $2.3 million in bribes and kickbacks.

One of those firms, Synesi Associates LLC, which trains principals and school administrators, was awarded contracts with DPS while Byrd-Bennett was working for the district, according to records posted on the DPS’ website.

Under a plea deal, prosecutors recommended that Byrd-Bennett be sentenced to 71/2years in prison, the Associated Press reported. She had faced a maximum of 20 years on each of 20 fraud counts in the indictment.

According to six-month expenditure reports from May and November 2011, DPS paid $1,487,654.08 to Synesi for “Consultant Services/Curriculum/Office of Accountability.”

The report from November 2011 also lists an invoice of $128,698.77 to Synesi as “disapproved.”

In a statement Tuesday, a DPS spokeswoman said the district is cooperating with authorities.

“DPS is committed to transparency in all of its business operations,” spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said. “As with any matter where there are allegations of misconduct, the district investigates internally and works cooperatively with the law enforcement agency handling such matters. In the case of Ms. Byrd-Bennett, we are continuing to work closely with law enforcement officials.”

Zdrodowski declined to comment further.

Byrd-Bennett, 66, was hired to work for DPS in April 2009 by then-Emergency Manager Robert Bobb and left the district shortly after him in June 2011.

She became chief education adviser for the Chicago Public Schools in April 2012, according to a biography posted on that district’s website. She was named CEO in October that year by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and resigned four months ago after the federal fraud investigation became public.

The indictment against Byrd-Bennett alleges the owners of Synesi and its parent firm, SUPES Academy, offered her money and a job once she left the Chicago schools. Byrd-Bennett formerly worked for SUPES Academy, a training company.

SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates LLC owners Gary Soloman and Thomas Vranas are accused of offering her money along with sporting-event tickets and other kickbacks in exchange for the contracts, the Associated Press reported. Both Chicago-area men face multiple charges, including bribery and conspiracy to defraud.

Speaking outside court after entering her plea, Byrd-Bennett voice quivered as she addressed Chicago’s 400,000 schoolchildren, their parents and her former co-workers.

“I am terribly sorry and I apologize to them,” she said. “They deserved much more — much more than I gave to them.”

Keith Johnson, a former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday he was “surprised and disappointed” when Byrd-Bennett was charged. “She worked very well with me while she was with DPS, and she was very instrumental in helping me get our peer assistance and review program together” for the district’s teachers, he said.

Johnson noted that Byrd-Bennett and DPS had faced criticism during the 2009-10 school year for a $40 million contract the district entered with book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcout. Byrd-Bennett once worked for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Associated Press contributed.

via Detroit News


Happy Columbus Day.


United States Holiday

For our followers around the world, Columbus Day is a United States holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World in 1492 and is celebrated on the second Monday in October of every year. Columbus originally set out to sail west in search of a sea route to China, India and Asia. But instead Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas, making him the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings. Later, Columbus sailed many more times across the Atlantic before realizing he was not in Asia but had discovered a new continent unknown to other Europeans.


Happy Columbus Day!
The Historical Day
When Columbus Discovered America!
A Day Of Joy For Everybody!
Let’s Enjoy His Great Discovery! USA


Prince George’s County Housing Official, Husband Convicted in $112K Rental Scam

CivilJusticeHomePageGraphic-613x419The former deputy director of the Prince George’s County Housing Authority, and her husband, face up to two decades in prison for a scam that paid them about $112,000 in rental subsidy payments from the Housing Authority.

Carla and Raymond Carter, both 54, of Mitchellville, were convicted Oct. 2 by a federal jury, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland.

 Prosecutors say the couple owned properties in Prince George’s County that were registered in HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which helps low-income families, the elderly and the disabled find safe housing. The program is administered by the county’s Housing Authority.

The evidence showed that from October 2007 through December 2012, the Carters conspired to defraud HUD and the Housing Authority to obtain rental subsidy payments for the properties they owned in Bowie and Capitol Heights. To disguise the scheme, the Carters listed a co-conspirator as the owner and landlord of the properties, and submitted numerous false documents to the Housing Authority, prosecutors say.

In 2008 or 2009, Carla Carter asked an employee of the Housing Authority to change the listed owner and landlord of one of the properties in computer records from “Carla Carter” to “Raymond Carter” and the co-conspirator. According to trial testimony, all of the rental subsidies were funneled into three bank accounts controlled by the Carters.

According to the trial testimony, on May 5, 2008, and April 18, 2011, Carla Carter submitted a false financial disclosure statement to the Prince George’s County Board of Ethics that failed to disclose her ownership of the properties. Carla Carter resigned on April 6, 2012, shortly after the housing agency placed her on administrative leave.

Carla and Raymond Carter each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud, 13 counts of wire fraud, and conspiring to commit money laundering. The Carters were released until their Jan. 11 sentencing under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.

Via patch.


Protesters Say: Prince George’s Cops’ Accountability Must Change

pGpOLICE2-273x300Panelists speak at Next Steps symposium at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md. (Photo by Linda Poulson) –

About 80 Prince George’s County residents gathered at a forum dedicated to discussing police accountability on Oct. 1. The discussion comes in the wake of several incidents in the county where Black men and women were either murdered or suffered abuse from authorities.

The Maryland Police Accountability: NEXT STEPS symposium was held at Prince Georges Community College (PGCC). The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Prince Georges County Branch of the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Prince Georges County, and the Prince Georges County People’s Coalition hosted the event.

“African Americans have been fighting for, and struggling with, when we first arrived on the shores of Fort Comfort, Virginia in 1619, we’ve been struggling for our humanity, we have been struggling to be recognized as human beings,” Wilmer Leon, moderator and radio host with Sirius XM, said at the event. “It’s much easier to shoot someone down in the street like a dog when you don’t see them as a human being. Focus on my color, fail to see my humanity.”

Speakers on the symposium panel included Cary Hansel, Hansel Law PC; Toni Holness, ACLU-Md.; Dorothy Elliott, victim advocate; Christian Gant, Next Step Coalition; Matthew Fogg, Congress Against Racism and Corruption in Law Enforcement; Bob Ross, Prince Georges NAACP; and Dr. Johnnie Jones, professor, PGCC.

“If the war on drugs was an equal opportunity enforcement operation, the federal government would have ended it four decades ago,” Fogg said. “It has become a race war against people of color. It is America’s number one human rights violation.”

Leon spoke on the series of articles by the {Washington Post} in 2001, which analyzed the use of force by county police back as far as 1990. The data indicated that officers shot 122 people; 47 were killed, the highest rate of any major city or county in the country. The vast majority of those killed were Black; many had committed no crime, and 45 percent were unarmed.

But much has changed in Prince Georges County on police matters since then, he noted. “However improvements are still needed. According to the {Baltimore Sun, ACLU reported that 21 people died after police encounters in 2010-2014 in Prince George’s County.

“The county is full of [Black] lawyers, doctors and other well-educated professionals,” Leon said. “But when it comes to policing or being policed, in the minds of too many of those who have sworn to protect and serve, these residents are considered well-paid niggers with degrees and are treated accordingly. The history is clear.” He added misconceptions of African Americans, poor police training, and the crimunal justice system failing to hold police accountable are just three factors that bring iniquity to many.

“We need to get out there [and speak about] this type of awareness, about this issue, because otherwise people will not come out,” said Marion Gray-Hopkins, who joined the panel. Her son, Gary Albert Hopkins Jr., 19, was shot and killed by county police officer Brian C. Catlett, 26, in 1999.

“They’re looking for protection, for whistle blowers. When I come out to these events this is a nice crowd,” she said. “When we go down to Annapolis to talk to those who make decisions, there’s only a handful of us. This is important, because it could be anyone of our sisters, brothers, fathers. If they don’t see us there, they feel it doesn’t mean anything to us.”

by: Linda Poulson Special to the AFRO