ESOP: We Support Black Cop Facing Termination for Charging White Officers With Excessive Force

 Ethical Society of Police and The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers support Maryland's Prince George’s Cou
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Photo: ACLU

The Ethical Society of Police and the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers say they support Maryland's Prince George’s County Police Lieutenant Sonya (Lancaster) Zollicoffer, for attempting to charge two white police officers for excessive force against a Black motorist in the following statement:

The Prince George’s County Police Department is incapable of fair discipline and treatment of minority officers and citizens. In 2017, Lieutenant Sonya (Lancaster) Zollicoffer was a sergeant in the Prince George’s County Internal Affairs Division when two white officers were accused of using excessive force on the Black motorist.

There was a video of the incident. The investigation of the two officers was assigned to Lt. Zollicoffer.

In 2018, Lt. Zollicoffer was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in February of 2018 and transferred from the Internal Affairs Division (IAD). Despite her promotion out of IAD in 2018, it is customary for original investigators to keep assigned cases until completion. Lt. Zollicoffer was also approved to continue the investigation.

While following this procedure, Lt. Zollicoffer inquired about why seven minutes of the original video was now removed.

Lt. Zollicoffer was then charged with “conduct unbecoming and misrepresentation of facts” for requesting a copy of the original video and continuing the investigation of the two officers. An administrative hearing was conducted on March 1st, 2021, and Lt. Zollicoffer was found guilty of violating policy, and the recommendation was termination.

During the hearing, Lt. Zollicoffer’s former IAD supervisor advised she could continue the investigation of the two officers and another investigation. It was also discovered, during the hearing, the case involving the two white officers had been “confidentially” reassigned from Lt. Zollicoffer, but not the other investigation.

In contrast, the charges against the two white officers were downgraded, with no recommendation for termination for the two white officers.

Even more alarming is that Major Kathleen Mills is named in a 2018 federal discrimination lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Maryland and the Washington Lawyers Committee on behalf of twelve minority Prince George’s County police officers against their department. Mills is accused of racial bias and retaliation as a commander over IAD. Lt. Zollicoffer is one of the minority officers suing Price George’s County.

The actions of Prince George’s County toward Black officers have long since been a problem.

Black officers make up 54% of all punishments and 71% of all terminations and resignations. We believe the investigation of Lt. Zollicoffer was retaliatory and racially biased.

We recommend Prince George’s County reverse their decision to terminate Lt. Zollicoffer because the Prince George’s County Police Department is incapable of fair discipline and treatment of minority officers and citizens.

Respectfully, The Ethical Society of Police Board

Lawsuit filed by ACLU of Maryland in this case can be seen here.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the authorities in Prince George County have recommended Lt. Zollicoffer be terminated but that determination is stll pending.

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