Black troopers in the Maryland Department of State Police have accused the agency of racism and discrimination, pointing to disparities in discipline and promotions, as well as underrepresentation and alleged instances of retaliation, according to a state senator.
Maryland State Sen. Joanne Benson of Prince George’s County met with more than 20 Black troopers who presented her with documents detailing their claims, WRC in Washington reported Thursday. The television station did not identify the troopers because those who spoke out are violating department policy.
“They had the paperwork. They had the proof,” Benson said. “They had done their homework relative to the incidents that have occurred and the problems they were experiencing.”
Benson, a Democrat, said she would call Superintendent Woodrow “Jerry” Jones before the legislative Black Caucus. Jones has headed Maryland State Police for the past year.
“It is unacceptable. We’re not going to go along with it,” Benson said.
The agency has denied the allegations, but didn’t respond to the station’s request for comment.
Benson also said she is concerned about the low number of ranking Black troopers in the agency. According to statistics provided by Maryland State Police, Black officers make up 8.9% of high-ranking commissioned officers and 11% of the agency’s non-commissioned officers, with very few rising to lieutenants.
“We are talking about troopers that have been there 16, 17, 18, in one case 25 years,” Benson said. “When they get to a point when they are eligible for a promotion the rules change.”
Benson could not immediately be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Thursday evening. Her cellphone voicemail box was full and she did not return a text seeking comment.
Other figures from Maryland State Police show discipline against white officers decreased between 2018 and 2020, reaching its lowest last year. Discipline against Black officers rose in the same time period, the statistics showed.
The data shows most Black troopers had minor infractions, but attorney Clarke Ahlers says discipline is sometimes harsher for Black officers regardless of the type of 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 said.
In one case, Ahlers said, some white troopers left a banana on a Black trooper’s car and told him that they had left him lunch.
“When he told me that story, I was offended by that story. I’m still offended by that story,” the attorney said.
Ahlers said the Black trooper reported the incident to the Office of Fair Practices, which he said found nothing racial in what the white troopers did.
“That’s patently absurd. I’m old enough to remember that was a dog whistle of the banana,” he said.
The Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP has written letters to the superintendent asking that he look into allegations of discrimination within the department.