As a Black Maryland police officer, Mark Miles has been mocked, demeaned, ostracized and humiliated by his colleagues, and witnessed his superiors discuss inciting race wars and killing Black Lives Matter protesters, a federal civil lawsuit by Miles alleges.
When Miles complained, he reportedly was moved to another squad and some of the officers participating in the racist behavior were promoted. Miles and his attorneys want the officers held accountable and are asking for systematic reforms.
“These officers are out there on the streets, and these kinds of racist attitudes can’t be allowed,” said Erika Jacobsen White, a lawyer representing Miles.
Miles joined the Maryland- National Capital Park and Planning Commission Park Police in 2019. The racial harassment started in April 2020, when he was transferred to “Shift 5,” patrolling in Montgomery County, Maryland. Shortly after his transfer, the other officers on the squad questioned Miles, who is biracial, about his race. His supervisor, Sgt. Stephanie Harvey, told him they “were worried they couldn’t trust” Miles “because he was Black,” according to the lawsuit.
Harvey is named in the lawsuit along with MNCPPC and was pointed to for being behind most of the harassment and racism Miles has experienced and witnessed at the agency. Miles filed a lawsuit after several complaints.
“Joke, don’t turn these texts over to [internal affairs] and get me fired for hate speech!” Harvey said in the squad’s texting group intended for work-related communication. “Because I’m racist … a misogynist too … or maybe a homophobe … I check all the boxes,” she said in another thread.
Still, Harvey allegedly said she thought racism was “made up,” and she poked fun at unconscious bias training.
When Miles was added to the text chain, Harvey sent a photograph of a Black child with the caption: “Well Hello Motherf——-.”
During a discussion about Black Lives Matter protesters, Harvey told Miles, “You’re the only half-colored on the squad.” The other officers in the squad room laughed at the comment, the lawsuit alleges. When Miles complained to the captain, Harvey said she was being politically correct by using the word colored.
On another occasion, Harvey texted: “If the deer is Black, dont shoot it;” then other officers replied, “Pet the deer before you shoot. Good photo op,” and “Use a choke hold,” according to court documents.
Miles alleges Harvey and other officers often talked about murdering Black Lives Matter protesters.
“Well they got the Army out there sooooo….hopefully they will get to kill some people,” Harvey texted.
White, Miles’ attorney said the texts correspond with what Black Lives protesters were rallying against. The protests erupted globally in response to the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd. Many protesters called for racial equality in policing and the end of excessive force and systemic racism.
“Everything that the protesters were talking about is really contained in these text messages,” White said.
The protests also intensified tensions between Black people and police. While protesters wanted more accountability and fewer police killings, law enforcement agencies saw an increase in resignations because they believed it ignited a wave of anti-police rhetoric. Some of the protesters’ signs were also anti-police, and the movement was followed by a campaign by some to defund the police.
When Miles complained to the commission about the squad’s behavior, he was removed from the texting group and could not get the information about the assignments. However, the harassment did not stop, so Miles reported it to internal affairs and then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Harvey was removed as a sergeant, but two other officers that participated in the racial harassment were temporarily promoted to the position of Miles’ supervisor. Once, when Miles called for backup during a high-risk call, no one from his squad responded. Instead, Montgomery Police officers answered the call first.
Miles has since been “involuntarily” transferred to “to a less desirable night shift,” according to court documents. He could not comment on the case out of fear of further retaliation.
Lt. Tracy Lieberman, a spokeswoman for the police agency, said officials “promptly initiated an investigation and took appropriate action based on the findings of that inquiry.
“Several officers were suspended and referred to the disciplinary process for termination,” Lieberman said. “The suggestion that Park Police management ignored allegations of misconduct by this group of officers is simply incorrect, and we will make the results of the trial board process public at the appropriate time.”