Prince George's County police credited with improving image


The Prince George's County Police Department announced yesterday that it had received unconditional accreditation from the Commission on the Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., an achievement county officials hailed as evidence of a turnaround in a department that once had a reputation for brutality.

The 1,232-member department met the commission's standards in such areas as preventing and controlling crime, effectiveness, efficiency, cooperation with other criminal justice agencies and increasing citizen confidence.

The commission, which is based in Fairfax, Va., is a law enforcement research agency that represents about 80 percent of the police executives in the United States and Canada and has established performance standards for police departments.

Its team of police executives visited Prince George's County to verify compliance and voted unanimously last week to grant accreditation.

"Obviously, we're very pleased," said Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening.

"We've had difficulty with the reputation with our police force in the past. We've made an extraordinary turnaround in recent years in setting standards of professionalism, community involvement and community-based police cooperation."

Mr. Glendening said that the force is now 35 percent minority, and minorities are represented in the department's command structure.

The department had been the target of activists, who complained that it was racist in hiring and promotions, often brutal in its treatment of minorities and unresponsive.

Two years ago, the department held public hearings and meetings with activists to try to solve problems and improve performance.

Last June, the state branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People cited the Prince George's County police force as the state's most improved.

"We still have a way to go," said Cora L. Rice, president of the county's NAACP branch. "But we're pleased that some of the changes have been made for the better."

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