By Harold Bell

In 1946 a black man in Walton County, Georgia was accused of stabbing a white man. The man Roger Malcolm was arrested and jailed. When the sun went down that evening a well known Ku Klux Klan member and bootlegger paid the bail to have the accused stabber released.

Malcom and his wife Dorothy, brother, George and his sister-in-law May were taken to a deserted field and gunned down by at least a dozen Ku Klux Klan’s men. They were armed with shotguns, rifles and a machine gun. The mass killings got the attention of President Harry Truman. President Truman would later assign the FBI to investigate the gruesome massacre. No one was ever arrested and brought to trial. Recently the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have discovered some new information about the case that they can’t ignore. They have re-opened the case. They are being encouraged to seek prosecution of the last living members of that vigilante group before they die.

The more things change the more they remain the same. Fast forward to 2008 to Prince George’s County, Maryland known as the richest black county in America. Despite their riches the county is still one of the most dangerous police jurisdictions in America for a black man to live. The county runs a close second in DBC (Death By Cop). The Los Angeles and New York City Police Departments are tied for first. Their sworn oath of duty—-is to serve and protect!

America’s police departments have been called one of the worst gangs in our community. You name the crime and they have committed it.

In Prince George’s County 19-year-old Ronnie White was being held in connection with the death of 31-year-old Police Corporal Richard Findley. Findley was a 10-year veteran of the department and served his community as a volunteer fireman. Corporal Findley was on a stake-out on Friday June 27, 2008 when he tried to stop a pick-up truck driven allegedly by Mr. White. He was hit and dragged to his death.

Mr. White was being held in solitary confinement at the Prince George’s County Correction facility in Upper Marlboro awaiting his day in court.

On Sunday morning June 29, 2008 between 10:15 and 10:30 am a Klan like act was committed. Someone was allowed to enter the guarded facility and break Mr. White’s neck. The timetable itself says to me it was a setup. Several guards on duty have taken the 5th Amendment and have asked to consult with lawyers. Since this is not rocket science the solution is easy, charge everyone who was on duty and had excess to Mr. White with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit murder. Sit back and watch “The Code of Silence” go from Deaf and dumb to squeals of pigs being taken to the slaughter.

This hideous act in 2008 of “Jailhouse Justice” is a sad commentary on the black community and its law enforcement leadership. First, there is County Executive Jack Johnson (a former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney). He was well aware of police misbehavior as it related to the black community. He had firsthand knowledge of how treacherous they could be. During his term as State’s Attorney he arrived to work early one morning to discover that a poisonous snake was joining him for coffee. It was rumored to be a gift from the Prince George’s County Police Department. It was clearly an attempt on his life.

His aggressive style as Prince George’s State’s Attorney had the cops in the county running for cover. During his term in office as County Executive I saw his style change from a tiger’s roar to a cat’s meow as it related to oversight of the police department. With their violent history safeguards should have automatically been taken and put in place to insure the safety of the accused ‘Cop Killer.’ Mr. White should have been transferred to another jurisdiction for his protection which by the way is a routine maneuver in law enforcement.

I was not shocked to hear of the murder of Ronnie White, I was shocked that the County Executive and Police Chief Melvin High didn’t take the necessary precautionary measures to see that the young man had his day in court. This incident proves that there is still “Justice and Just-Us” even with black folks pretending that they are in charge. Two wrongs still don’t make a right.

The present Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey is expected to lead the investigation. Mr. Ivey was quoted saying, “Unfortunately, we’ve got a fair amount of experience with investigations into law enforcement.” His community commitment was questioned in a column written by me, “Breaking the Faith” (We are a people betrayed by our preachers and politicians) in the Washington Post in May 2004. His commitment according to some community leaders is still in question. His eyes are on the prize (County Executive) much like his predecessor, Jack Johnson.

The Prince George’s County legacy and reputation of “Bad Cops” goes all the way back to the‘50s with me growing up in NE Washington. The department had a reputation for mistreating blacks and you didn’t even have to break the law to get their attention—our black skin was the attention getter. They were especially fluent when came to using the BIG N word.

The Justice Department has had its eyes on the Prince George’s Police Department for decades. In the ‘80s the county had one of the highest shooting rates among large police departments nationwide. In 1999 there were charges that officers in the canine unit improperly set police dogs on black suspects. The probe was expanded to the entire police department in October 2000 after a Howard University student Prince Jones was shot five times in the back by a county officer in a case of mistaken identity. The Justice Department probe is expected to end next year, if that is the case that would be a big mistake. The Prince George’s County Police Department should be given a life time contract with the Justice Department, it has earned it.

The present Chief, Melvin High is a nice guy but he is cautious not to step on an egg and crack it. He was also the subject of my column in the Washington Post. He was quoted as saying as it related to youth violence at Suitland High School, “My hands are tied I have got to move on.” If he can’t address the problem of youth violence how can he be expected to address the problem of adult violence in his own department?

In the ‘70s and ‘80s Chief High (Discipline Review Board) was a part of the administration of the DC Police Department along with former DC Police assistant chiefs, Isaac Fullwood (former Chief), and Marty Tapscott. They looked the other way as a bad cop by the name of Tommy Musgrove was allowed to physically abuse black prisoners on weekends in the cell block of police headquarters in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The Justice Department finally took over the investigation and Musgrove was convicted and sentenced to jail. His conviction was overturned on appeal after serving a year in jail. He was given back pay, his job back and later promoted. Musgrove was a ‘Bad Cop’ that beat the system because so-called ‘Good Cops’ would not take a stand and do the right thing. I was a witness my brother a good cop, Sgt. Earl K. Bell led the investigation that got Musgrove convicted.

Good cops outnumber the bad cops on police departments around the country, but there is this false sense of security that “It is us against them mentality.” The Code of Silence if you check its origin was the idea of a snake oil salesman smooth talking “Bad Cop.”

My brother Earl was a DC cop for 18-years and my late brother Alfred Robert Bell was a U. S. Marshall for 20-years. I have worked side by side with law-enforcement (DC MPD, FBI, Secret Service, etc) for my entire career as a youth advocate in the streets of the inner-city. During the 1968 riots while working for the DC Recreation Department as a Roving Leader I was assigned a DC MPD badge by Assistant Chief Tilmon O’Byrant. The purpose was to get me through DC police barricades to talk with looters and other law-breakers without interference. It was a scary assignment. I was the only one who didn’t have a gun and a bulletproof vest. I have seen good cops and bad cops up close and personal. The good cops in Prince Georges’ County out number the bad cops but have their priorities confused with loyalty and the law.

In another display of police misconduct and abuse of power on the evening on the day he died, a group of Ronnie White’s friends tried to hold a candle light vigil in his memory. Members of the Prince George’s Police Department’s goon-squad stepped in and broke up the memorial. This is a violation of these young people’s Civil Rights. Jack Johnson and Chief High need to tell their officers to back off immediately and act like they are there to serve and protect all of the county’s citizens.

Beware adults, the FBI and our children are watching and following this case very closely.



  1. Upper Marlboro, MD Resident Says:

    It’s sickening to me that you focus only on Mr. White’s civil rights and in no way address the fact that he hit and dragged to his death another human being. You can say “allegedly” all you want but this occurred in broad day light with countless witnesses. This kid was a menace with a decorated rap sheet. What about that cop’s rights? And now my tax dollars will go to the family of this menace. I do not condone what was done to Mr White while in custody, but I’m not losing any sleep over it. Let’s focus on our kids and teaching them how to do the right thing. And let’s stop making excuses.

  2. Tiger Fleetwood Says:

    That is why police get killed the way they do, just because, they will kill us youth if they get a chance. PG better not do any paper work! Police should not jump out there. Most are only trying to survive the mean streets. From Forestville to Fortwash!

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