Baltimore City and three metropolitan area counties are among Maryland's worst five jurisdictions regarding police brutality and the relationship between citizens and the police department, according to the state chapter of the NAACP.
The state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People made that assessment in its second annual survey of 24 Maryland police departments. Baltimore, where three people were killed by police this year and a city NAACP official was allegedly assaulted by an officer earlier this month, was listed as having the worst police department.
But some of the harshest language was reserved for Howard County, where bitterness still lingers as a result of the hanging death this year of a 20-year-old Columbia man who had filed brutality charges against police officers.
In the survey, which covered 1989 and up to the fall of this year, the NAACP identified the police departments of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Charles counties as the other three among the five worst in Maryland.
Last year's survey covered 1988.
The survey cited the Prince George's County police department as the most improved. Prince George's hired a new police chief and its police union elected its first black president after race relations had reached a nadir in 1989 with the death of a Ghanaian national in a scuffle with four white officers.
The survey said Baltimore has a "massive and devastating" problem with police brutality and misconduct. It cited as an example the alleged attack of a Baltimore NAACP official on Oct. 1 by police officers.
"Afro-Americans, particularly Afro-American NAACP officials, appear to be targeted by city police for physical and emotional abuse," the civil rights group stated, adding that 26 of the 27 alleged victims of excessive police force during the survey period are black.
Dennis Hill, a Baltimore police spokesman, said the department is investigating the alleged attack on the NAACP official, but that it would not comment on the survey.
Charles Ware, general counsel for the Maryland NAACP, said Howard's police department needs to undergo radical changes. He said he was disturbed that officials there only recently have begun to talk about forming a citizen review board to oversee allegations of police misconduct.
Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a Howard police spokesman, said none of the 28 allegations of brutality filed in the county since the beginning of last year has been sustained so far. Four cases remain open, he said, including one involving the charges filed by Carl Jonathan Bowie, his brother and a friend after their arrest at a party in a Jessup motel last Jan. 5.
On May 4, Bowie's body was found hanged on a baseball backstop at Oakland Mills High. Police ruled the death a suicide, sparking charges from some Columbia residents that police had not thoroughly investigated the incident.