The US Department of Justice Friday opened an investigation of the Maryland Department of State Police’s (MDSP) hiring and promotion practices. The investigation was opened under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment practices.
According to a press release from the district attorney’s office, “Under Title VII, the Justice Department has the authority to initiate investigations against state and local government employers where it has reason to believe that a ‘pattern or practice’ of employment discrimination exists.”
US Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron stated:
This office strives to protect the civil rights of all Marylanders, including the rights of our sworn law enforcement officers. This investigation also furthers our mission to restore trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve by ensuring fair employment practices by police departments.
Black officers within MDSP have been alleging incidents of racism for some time. Experts have also raised concerns about hiring data. As of December 31, 2020, only 12.6 percent of Maryland troopers were Black, with more than 80 percent being white. There is also a 43 percent decrease in the number of Black troopers between 2003 and 2021. Data also shows a higher number of disciplinary actions initiated against Black troopers, with a 48 percent increase from 2019 to 2020.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) and Secretary of state police Col. Woodrow W. “Jerry” Jones III have both agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Michael Ricci, the Director of Communications for Hogan, stated in an email to The Washington Post:
We have committed record funding to increase diversity and strengthen recruitment during a challenging time for law enforcement. It is important to ensure any wrongdoing is addressed, so we welcome this investigation and have pledged full cooperation.