The Justice Department has launched an investigation to determine whether the Maryland Department of State Police engaged in “racially discriminatory hiring and promotion practices.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced the investigation in a statement to Blavity.
“Discrimination has no place in any workplace, and especially in law enforcement agencies,” Clarke said in the release. “Our investigation will determine whether the Maryland Department of State Police has created racially discriminatory barriers for Black people seeking job opportunities and promotions and, if so, identify the reforms necessary to ensure equal employment opportunities. All communities deserve law enforcement agencies that are built upon principles of fairness and equity.”
While the department has not reached any conclusions in the investigation, officials said the governor and Maryland State Police Superintendent “have been informed and pledged cooperation with the investigation.”
In 2021, former and current Black officers launched accusations against the MDSP, saying the department gave preferential treatment to white officers.
“We always have to watch our backs — what we say, what we do,” an anonymous officer said, according to NBC Washington. “And it’s never an even playing field.”
Another Black officer, who also chose to remain anonymous, pointed to several examples of discrimination.
“Whether it’s from the discipline that’s unfair. Whether it’s from the promotions and the transfers that are unfair. Whether it’s from their hiring practices,” the officer told NBC Washington.
Sen. Joanne Benson, who met with more than 20 Black troopers, said the officers spoke about being overlooked for promotions, receiving harsher discipline than white officers and experiencing underrepresentation, retaliation and discrimination.
“They had the paper work. They had the proof,” Benson told the news station. “They had done their homework relative to the incidents that have occurred and the problems they were experiencing.”
The agency denied all allegations of discrimination. However, the department also granted NBC Washington’s request for data. According to the figures, the MDSP employed more than 1,400 troopers as of 2021. More than 1,200 of the officers were white at that time, while 172 were Black.
The agency issued 79 discipline cases against Black officers in three years — a much larger percentage than white troopers. While the number of discipline cases against Black officers continued to rise since 2018, discipline against white officers decreased in the same time period, reaching its lowest number in 2020.
Attorney Clarke Ahlers said discipline for Black officers is sometimes harsher regardless of the severity of the infraction.
“They return outrageous punishments that are inappropriate for any trooper and it’s so clear that it’s happening to African American troopers,” Ahlers told NBC Washington. “I’m a conservative older white male. I’m not a person who sees or screams racism at every turn. In the three cases of African American troopers I’ve represented I think there was overt racial prejudice against these troopers.”