Not Guilty Verdict Highlights Need for Police Reform

By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]

Last week’s verdict that found Kevin Sneed not guilty of four counts is an opportunity for education and police accountability reform, according to a Prince George’s County attorney. 

Jonathan Newton, president of the National Association Against Police Brutality (NAAPB), hopes his organization, and others like his, can educate citizens on the law and their rights during police encounters and the criminal justice process. At one time, Newton worked as a public information officer for a sheriff’s department in Georgia, before blowing the whistle on what he believed was a corrupt sheriff. 

Last week’s verdict that found Kevin Sneed not guilty of four counts as an opportunity for education and police accountability reform, according to a Prince George’s County attorney, Jonathan Newton. (Screenshot via news report)

“We hope to create accountability, transparency and begin to demystify the myths promoted about the Black community and the dangerous Black male fallacy promoted by some officers,” Newton told the AFRO. “Mr. Sneed’s case proves there’s a need to deal with the issues at a grassroots and legislative level.”

Sneed’s legal issues arose from a traffic stop in the parking lot of the Brinkley Market in Temple Hills. In a probable cause statement, a County police officer said he stopped Sneed for a broken taillight. The officer also wrote one of his motives was that he was patrolling the area because of a “robbery in the immediate vicinity the previous night.” The officer claimed Sneed attempted to flee from the stop by accelerating after the stop. The statement also said Sneed’s vehicle moved 60 feet from where the SUV was stopped when he entered the vehicle searching for contraband and weapons.

However, no guns or drugs were found in the SUV, but Sneed was beaten and suffered severe injuries.  Video from the surveillance camera didn’t seem to match the officer’s version of events. Initially, State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks — now county Executive — moved forward with the prosecution. The incident occurred in May of 2017. Mr. Sneed was initially charged with attempted murder.

Earlier this year, newly elected State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy continued the prosecution of Sneed. His family and a community of supporters and activists demanded the charges be dropped. Braveboy reduced Sneed’s 16 initial charges down to four: first-degree and second-degree assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Sneed was offered a plea with no jail time if he’d admit some guilt.  Mr. Sneed declined the offer and went to trial on April 25.

Last week’s verdict ended a two-year struggle for Sneed and his family. He has fought to overcome depression and a loss of hope in the judicial system.  

“When we received this case, we determined the case had merit.” Braveboy said. “We thought it was appropriate to prosecute with reduced charges. We respect the jury‘s verdict.”

Newton sees this as an opportunity for citizens to become involved to demand laws that punish officers who embellish police reports and rebuild the relationship that has been eroding in Prince George’s County and other primarily minority jurisdictions for years.  

One of the myths the NAAPB hopes to debunk is the notion that minority males are more prone to commit violence against police officers.  According to a Department of Justice study following the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., often these practices are “motivated by racial bias that lead to discriminatory policies that violate the 14th Amendment rights of suspects and federal laws and leave African American residents less trusting and make policing less effective.”

“Once communities are educated they become empowered and that empowerment leads to accountability,” Newton said. “When officers and leaders are willing to admit these issues are not going to be solved with our current mindsets, dialogue can occur and progress can be made.”

A January 2018 USA Today report concluded that of the 25 most dangerous jobs in America police and sheriff’s patrol officers rank 18th.   

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