Two Prince George's County Police Department officers have been suspended today for acting in a video posted to YouTube which county Police Chief Mark Magaw described as racially insensitive.
According to Magaw, speaking to reporters during a press conference at Prince George's County police headquarters in Palmer Park, the officers could be fired for taking part in the video, which he said was supposed to "spoof" the idea of "driving while black", the idea that African-American's are treated with more scrutiny by police officers patrolling the streets, roads and highways.
"A profane and racially insensitive video including two Prince George's County Police Department officers was circulated on the internet," said Magaw to reporters. "The video was disparaging not only to our profession, but also to the community we serve."
One officer involved in the video production was a 10 year veteran of the department, the other was a three year veteran of the force. Both were patrol officers working out of the county's district 5 station. Magaw said that the officers face the possibility of being fired for their participation in the video production, but a final decision about their punishment would have to wait until an internal investigation concluded.
According to Magaw, the video was uploaded to YouTube on Nov. 1. Magaw said department internal affairs investigators were notified of the video this morning via an anonymous online tip.
Magaw said the video depicted two African-American police officers wearing county police uniforms exiting a marked Prince George's County Police Department cruiser and then acting out a traffic stop where they interrogate a third African-American actor driving a car. During the video, Magaw said the officers used racially inappropriate language.
Magaw said the third actor is a local comedian. Magaw did not believe the third actor, who he did not name, had violated any laws by participating in the video, but he said that a final determination would be made after the internal investigation.
Magaw said he did not believe that the officers were on duty at the time they participated in the video production, but a final determination on that would come out of the internal investigation.
Vince Canales, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, which represents members of the Prince George's County Police Department, agreed that the video was inappropriate, but asked the public to be patient while the internal investigation was completed.
Magaw said the video had high production values, but the content was deplorable.
"It appears that it was supposed to be a spoof, but it wasn't funny at all," said Magaw. "People make mistakes, people do stupid things. Both of these officers will be held accountable for their actions."