Hyattsville reacts to the reinstatement of officers
By Sophie Gorman Oriani
Over the six weeks since the reinstatement of six officers involved in the Sept. 26 shooting of Leonard Shand, local residents have continued to make their opinions known about this city action.
Many area residents have submitted public comments to the city council. The vast majority expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision, although one commenter weighed in in support of the reinstatement “until a complete investigation has been done and submitted.”
The six officers in question have been on administrative leave until the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGCPD) finishes investigating the Shand shooting. It is standard practice for officers to be placed on administrative leave after an officer-involved shooting.
“I made the decision to return the six officers to full-duty to ensure that the Department is able to meet the public safety demands of our City and that we are staffed to continue our law enforcement mission in the event any of our officers are affected by COVID-19,” wrote Chief of Police Amal Awad in an Apr. 14 press release.
The City of Hyattsville held a community meeting on Oct. 1 to discuss the shooting. Many residents at the meeting called for the HCPD to explore additional non-lethal options and de-escalation tactics, and to increase their training in mental health and anti-bias issues.
“We have explored additional nonlethal options,” said HCPD Chief Amal Awad at the May 18 city council meeting. “[The options are] very limited. We pretty much have all that’s available out there, with the exception of one piece of equipment, specifically, the BolaWrap.” According to its website, the BolaWrap is a form of what are called “less-lethal” weapons; it fires a tether which can be used to restrain a subject from a distance. Awad said she has evaluated BolaWrap and was “not comfortable” with its discharge. She also said she is working on providing additional training for officers.
Community Justice, a community-based advocacy group, has organized several socially distanced car rallies in Hyattsville to protest the reinstatement of the officers. Kema Harris, a cofounder of Community Justice, described it as a “coalition of community members, organization leaders and activists working together in solidarity to stop corrupt police officers from terrorizing people of color.”
Harris founded Community Justice after her son was assaulted by police officers in 2017. “I lost hair, teeth, weight, just fighting for my son, and I just thought about the mothers out here who are doing the same,” she said.
Harris said that Community Justice is calling for the firing of the reinstated officers, Chief Amal Awad and City Administrator Tracey Douglas.
“I would like to see … transparency [from the City of Hyattsville] like they promised on October the 1st [during the community meeting held in response to the shooting]. They asked us to trust the … investigation process but then let Chief Awad circumvent it.”