My name is Harold Bell and I live in Suitland, Md. For the pass several months me and my neighbors have become concerned about what looks like out of control“Cowboy Cops” on the Prince Georges County Police Department. I have eye-witnessed them traveling in packs of threes between Marlboro Pike and on Silver Hill Road to Branch Ave. (route 5) targeting black and minority drivers.
There is the possibility that these stops were legal but what really got my attention to these frequent stops was on Wednesday August 18th and Friday August 21st.
On Wednesday morning I had just left the ATM at the Wells Fargo Bank on Silver Hill Road. It was around 9:15 am when I stopped at the light at the intersection of Silver Hill Road and Penn. Ave. I was heading toward the Census Bureau and there were three police cars were headed in the opposite direction sitting at the same light.
When the light changed to green the three cars sped off in the direction of Marlboro Pike. I thought maybe there was an emergency but there were no sirens or flashing lights indicating an emergency call. The two lead cars were driven by what looked like a Hispanic and white officers and the third car following was driven by a black officer. Suddenly the white cop yelled something to the Hispanic officer on his left and broke out with a smile. I thought to myself–WOW!
I continue my drive home on Silver Hill Road toward the Census Bureau when I decided to stop for takeout breakfast at the McDonald’s located at the intersection of Porter Street and Silver Hill Road. While I was standing in line waiting for my order to be taken I heard a customer behind say, “There go those Cowboy Cops again!” I turned to look and saw the same three police officers I had seen speeding off at the intersection of Silver Hill and Penn. Ave. Another customer chimed-in and said ‘That is routine in this neighborhood. They profile us all the time.’ As I drove out of the McDonald’s the three police officers were still lingering on the street in front of the 7-11 store smiling and laughing like they were playing some kind of game. The driver they had pulled over had driven off.
To avoid an illegal stop, instead of me pulling out on to Silver Hill Road and making a left turn I chose to make a right on to Silver Hill Road and take the long way home via Penn. Ave to Regency Parkway. But once I got home I was upset at myself for having to be scare of those who are suppose to be protecting me.
On Friday August 21st I drive up to the Exxon Gas Station located at the intersection of Suitland Road and Silver Hill Road to carry my car through in inspection. It was a beautiful afternoon around 1:30 pm and I was sitting out by the garage when I heard the siren of an emergency vehicle. I was sitting down and the cars in the station were blocking my view of the police action taking place 25 yards in front of me.
When I stood up to see what was going on I saw three PG County police cars had pulled over a black motorist. Probably a legal stop, but this time I pulled out my cell phone camera to record the stop. One of the police officers notice me taking a video of them and pulled out his camera and started to video me, I guess this was to intimidate me.
By chance the motorist stayed around the station after he was given the ticket. I took this opportunity to discuss with him what had just happen. His name was Sherman a visitor to the city from Mississippi. He said the cops claimed they had pulled him over for a bad left tail light. They then ran his license plate through their data base and discovered his registration had expired and gave him a ticket for $140.
Their next move he said he could not understand? They asked him to get out of the car and proceeded to pat him down like he was a criminal. “I would have understood if this was in Mississippi but not in Maryland. This kind of thing still happens in Mississippi all the time”, said Sherman. After the pat down, the officers popped his trunk and searched it without asking his permission. This was an illegal search! In the meantime, while I am talking to the motorist a PG County officer sits in his car across the street watching watch us.
The mechanic at the Exxon station warned me, “They are going to arrest you to.” When he asked to see my video my street instincts told me he was a look-out and informant for the cops.
Governor Hogan, I am a 4th generation Washingtonian and I have been living in Prince Georges’ County for 45 years. I remember in the 40s and 50s as a young man me and my friends use to drive into the county via Suitland Road with an adult driver and before we could get to Silver Hill Road we were pulled over by white cops routinely, asking, “Where are you boys headed?” I have not forgotten when the PG County Police Department was one of the most brutal in the country when it came to minorities, right behind LA and NY City. They were on the FBI watch list for decades–are we back there?
This year marks 50 years that I have been working in the DMV with youth gangs and at-risk children, which means I have spend a lot of time in courtrooms throughout the DMV. Two of my three of brothers were in law-enforcement. My older brother Robert A. Bell was a U. S. Marshall for 25 years and my younger brother Earl K. Bell was a DC police officer for 18 years. They were also victims of The Code of Silence and The Thin Blue Line that discourages honesty and integrity by good law enforcement officers who want “To do the right thing.” The code of silence and thin blue were brain-childs of the KKK. and if police departments in this country are not addressing these two important issues we are going in circles.
Hands on DC Police Chief Burtell Jeffereson and Sgt. Earl K. Bell and he lends a helping hand at toy party for inner-city children
My life long friend Andrew Johnson (on your left) with Willie Wood (NFL) front and center. We were partners in the inner-city when he was a foot patrolman. He went on to become one of the top homicide detectives on the DCPD. He retired from law-enforcement as a supervisor with the DEA. He was recently profiled by a nervous white cop on Mitchellville Road claiming he spotted a crack in his windshield. He saw the cop sitting back up in a corner off the road as he drove by. The officer immediately pulled in behind him. There was no way this officer could have seen a crack in his windshield as he drove by. What he saw was a black man in a Mercedes. The nervous cop apologize and got back in his car and pulled off. This Cowboy Cop
attitude extends from Section 8 Housing in Suitland to the Gated Community in Woodmoore. No black person is safe or immune from these Cowboy Cops
or the politicians and ministers that protect them.
My mentor was the late Luke C. Moore the first black U. S. Marshall in modern day history appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Willie Wood and I walked arm in arm with Luke during the 1968 riots on the U Street, NW corridor. During the riots I was summoned to the 3rd District Police HQ by Assistant Chief Tilmon O’Brant. He introduced me to his officers and then he gave me a DC police badge to allow me to pass through police and military barricades in the city.
Luke later became a DC Superior Court judge. He encouraged and brought DC judges and P. G. County judges, William Missouri (known as the hanging judge) and Alex Williams to participate in my Kids In Trouble programs. The late Senator Decatur Trotter (D-Prince Georges County) was another mentor. My experiences working in the streets of the inner-city with youth gangs, at-risk children, judges, courts and with the good, bad and ugly cops are second to none in the DMV. I know a good cop when I see and hear one!
In the late 60s former New York City Police Chief Patrick Murphy was appointed Public Safety Director of the DC Police and Fire Departments by the late Mayor, Walter Washington. Mr. Murphy was know as the Godfather of Police and Community Relations in this country. He met with the staff of the DC Recreation Department’s Roving Leader Program once month to help keep a pulse on youth gangs and at-risk children. He said, “You guys are the eyes and ears of the streets.”
As a DC native, I appreciate the bold, honest and profound statements and sports analyses presented by Harold Bell. Thanks, Harold, for all you do and have done and thanks for taking me back down memory lane. You are a true friend and real legend. Md. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr.
Governor Hogan you are an alumnus of DeMatha High School and I know Coach Morgan Wooten had to touch you somewhere along the way. When I read you learned integrity from your father, that means you had the best of both worlds, because Coach Wooten is definitely a man of integrity. He has been a great friend and supporter of Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports for decades. You mention the name of Harold Bell and there will be no hesitation coming from him as it relates to our relationship (truly a man of integrity).
There are plenty of good cops in our community but they are outnumbered by the bullies and cowards. In my 50 years of working in the DMV I have seen the good, bad and ugly up close and personal. It is a sad commentary that in 2015 law-abiding residents in this county have to not only worry about, the everyday young thug, but they also have to be on the lookout for the Crips, Bloods, ISIS and some members of the PG County Police Department. In case you have not heard, there are times in the DMV, the thug and the cop are one of the same.
When the late Patrick Murphy (NY City Top Cop) was named the Director of Public Safety for the DC Police and Fire Departments in 1967, I was by his side as a Roving Leader for the DC Recreation Department (Youth Gang Task Force). We met once a month at Police HQ to discus ways of bringing the police and community together. How of these type of meetings have you participated in with cops and community?
Boys in the hood and DC Cops bond by playing ball together. Coach H. Bell, Ricky Dargan and Kirby Burkes share a laugh with Officer Charles Robinson after winning city-wide softball tournament.
In the 70s and 80s I was the first media personality to bring judges, politicians, pro athletes and entertainers together to enhance the growth of our community. I organized forums as it related to police and community relations and youth violence conferences around the DMZ to bring peace to our streets.
Jim Brown (NFL) and Congressman Tom Davis (R-Virginia) co-host Kids In Trouble Forum on Police & Community Relations
Governor Hogan, I encouraged my friends and family to vote for you, otherwise it was going to be “Business as usual” with the other candidate. I have seen beyond, the Black and White, Republican and Democrat issue for decades. I want the best man or woman for the job of leading this county and country. It is not only the bad cops, I am sorry to say, but the bad politicians and ministers are a part of the problem. They don’t have a clue, everyone is out for themselves.
Governor Hogan, I am still active in the community. I am the Historian for the World famous Ben’s Chili Bowl chain. I mentor neighborhood youth, I host my own live radio show “Inside Washington” every Monday evening on WCLM Radio 1450 on the am dial in Richmond, Virginia. I write blogs for Black Men in America.com and I have my own blog sites, The Original Inside Sports.com and The Original Inside Sportsmlblog.com.
Detroit FBI Director Wayne Davis and I worked the mean streets of DC during the 1968 riots
This Game Called Life in PG County is not a spectator sport and ain’t nobody playing fair when it comes to Justice & Just-Us in American courtrooms. This brings to mind the recent shooting death of Laquan McDonald in Chicago last year. His murder was covered-up for 13 months while his killer policed the streets of Chicago. His police history shows this was a “Bad Cop.” This reminds me of the cover-up of the PG County cops that were responsible for the hanging of Ronnie White in the Upper Marlboro jail before he had his day in court. Those cops are are still patrolling our streets in PG County. If this wasn’t reminisce of the KKK and a step back into the 30s, and 40s someone is fast to sleep.
In a recent radio interview with Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga 4th District), he explained to me why he had to express his disappointment with his colleagues on the House Floor as it related to the outright “War on Black Men” in America by police departments across America. He said, “There are too many in law enforcement who would rather use their guns instead of their heads.” This is a courageous politician/man who has decided he is no longer going along to get along. He reminded me of another courageous black politician, Adam Clayton Powell. Congressman Powell was a Baptist minister who represented Harlem, New York. He became a powerful national politician for the Democratic Party. He was a unpologetic national spokesman on civil rights and other social issues that concerned the black community (1945-71). Today he is that courageous and unpologetic voice on Capitol Hill.
Congressman Johnson constituency base is in the 4th District of Georgia but as a native Washingtonian, he remembers the senseless police brutality of the PG County police department. The department was under a U. S. Justice Department/FBI watch for decades. Are we headed back there or are we still there? In April Congressman Johnson stood on the House Floor and told his colleagues “It feels like open season on Black Men in America.” See link below.