Protesting the re-instatement of six city police officers who shot and killed Leonard Shand in September 2019, police reform activists staged a drive-in demonstration in front of Hyattsville’s City Administration Building on Gallatin Street May 4, 2020. The event later prompted Hyattsville City Administrator Tracey Dougals to reveal city officials reviewed the events surrounding Shand’s death and found no violations of internal policies.
“Preliminarily, the [city police] command staff conducted an executive review of the unfortunate death of Mr. Shand and determined that the actions were consistent with departmental policy,” said Douglas during Hyattsville’s May 4, 2020 City Council meeting. “While I know that is of little comfort to the Shand family and friends, the chief made the decision to ensure that the residents had uninterrupted law enforcement services.”
Douglas also said the city has begun to research new technology and equipment that could be used when “non-lethal equipment is not as effective.” The comment is notable because, according to narratives put-forth by county and local police officials, Shand was shot after police tried several times to tase him early in the encounter, all unsuccessful.
“We are awaiting the results of the investigation to glean any knowledge or insight from that, but also in conducting our executive review we did look at the type of equipment that we did use and the type of equipment that we could potentially use in the future,” said Awad, following up on Douglas’ comments.
The drive-in demonstration was organized by the group Community Justice, which has accused Prince George’s County law enforcement agencies of systematically aggressive policing of minorities and the poor.
Route 1 Reporter did not witness the event in person, but watched live-streamed videos from activists on the scene as they blocked entrances to the parking lot, honked horns, chanted slogans and made brief speeches excoriating city officials for their decision to re-instate the officers.
Hyattsville officials announced mid-April six unnamed officers would be re-instated from administrative duty to full-time active duty to shore-up patrol staffing on the city police force during the coronavirus pandemic. The officers had been on administrative duty ever since they, along with officers from the Prince George’s County and Mount Rainier police departments, shot and killed Shand. Shand was shot as he lunged at officers while allegedly holding two knives in his hands after a 30-minute walking-standoff near the Mall at Prince George’s.
The re-activation of the officers is controversial because an investigation into the events of that day, conducted by the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Internal Affairs division, has yet to be concluded.
In an interview after the protest, action co-organizer Kenneth Clark said the event was designed to show city officials the community is still paying attention.
“Our action today was to let them know, hey, you are not going to get away with this,” said Clark. “We want accountability.”
In addition to the caravan protest, Community Justice also organized a letter writing campaign, submitting more than a dozen public comments critical of the re-instatement. The comments, which included a letter from Leonard Shand’s siblings Paul and Tracy Shand, were all read during Hyattsville May 5, 2020, City Council meeting.
“We are extremely concerned about Chief Awad’s decision to re-instate six police officers who were on administrative leave for their involvement in the killing of our brother,” read the Shand siblings’ letter. “The six officers actions potentially show an egregious lapse in decision-making and concern for public safety.”
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth also said the city’s resident oversight boards have been slow to examine issues surrounding Shand’s death at the hands of police. After Shand’s death, Hollingsworth called for the city’s Race & Equity Task Force and the Police and Public Safety Advisory Committee to hold joint sessions to discuss the incident.
“I’ll just candidly say that the Police and Public Safety Advisory Committee was not comfortable in having that discussion in that way around this incident,” said Hollingsworth. “Their perspective, as I understood it, was that…this was still an active investigation.”
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