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Dated: Monday March 08, 2021

As a body of men and women of color employed as criminal justice practitioners, the members and Board of Directors of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (NABLEO) have, since their inception, consistently taken an active stance against racially discriminatory practices in law enforcement, and other instances of social injustice that bring both division and discredit to our chosen profession.

The results of numerous empirical studies, one published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes in April 2020, and the Michael E. Graham independent report in August 2020, have proven, without any degree of doubt, that Black law enforcement officers are disproportionately disciplined, causing them to lose promotions and pay, and become subjected to both continuing harassment and retaliation from supervisors and other agency officials. Thus, it is no surprise that the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association NCR (HNLEA), United Black Police Officers Association (UBPOA), ACLU of Maryland, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, filed a federal lawsuit against Prince George’s County, Maryland and specific high-ranking officials of the Prince George’s County Police Department. A plaintiff in the lawsuit, Lieutenant Sonya (Lancaster) Zollicoffer, recently had administrative charges sustained against her for attempting to ensure that an internal affairs investigation was conducted with integrity. This reflects a pattern of continued discrimination and retaliation, and supports the Graham’s report findings of disparate treatment of Black and Brown officers within the agency.

We have grave concerns that Lt. Zollicoffer will continue to be denied due process, as the official who will decide her discipline in her administrative case is Interim Chief Hector Velez. Chief Velez was the Assistant Chief who oversaw the Internal Affairs Division at the onset of the administrative case against Lt. Zollicoffer. This is a clear conflict of interest and violates law enforcement’s code of ethics.

Lt. Zollicoffer’s unfair treatment is a clear example of why UBPOA and HNLEA have filed their federal lawsuit against Prince George’s County. Officers of color are not only more likely to have administrative charges sustained against them, and more likely to be punished more harshly than their White peers, but they are more than likely to be denied due process in retaliation for speaking out about their mistreatment. Thus, we stand in support of Lt. Sonya Zollicoffer, against her disparate treatment and hostile work environment. We will be watching closely as her administrative case continues.

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc, a 501.(c).(3) non-profit, is a premier national organization representing the interests and concerns of African American, Latino and other criminal justice practitioners of color serving in law enforcement, corrections, and investigative agencies throughout the United States, and the communities in which they serve.

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