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PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. -- Two Prince George's County police officers face possible firing over their appearance in a spoof video that mocks the racial profiling of black drivers, but the NAACP is questioning whether such severe punishment is justified.
The video, which was produced by a D.C. comic and uploaded on YouTube, features two black county police officers who - while in uniform and driving a marked police cruiser - conduct a mock traffic stop of a black driver and berate and harass the man using demeaning language and racial stereotypes.
County police officials were quick to condemn the "driving while black" video, which was uploaded on YouTube on Nov. 1 but taken offline Friday after the police department's internal affairs division was tipped off to its existence and began investigating.
"The video is disparaging not only to this profession but also to the community that we serve," Police Chief Mark A. Magaw said at a press conference Friday evening to announce the suspension of the two officers involved. "I watched it, and I was disgusted by what I saw."
The video has resurfaced on another YouTube account, giving others a chance to weigh both its comedic value and the actions of the officers. In the nine-minute long skit, a black man is pulled over twice by the same two police officers - once for blasting loud music from his car and the second time for driving 26 mph in a 25 mph zone. During the outlandish traffic stop, the officers use a Taser on a bystander and, after accusing the driver of having drugs in his car, obviously sprinkle what is supposed to be marijuana on his lap.
For majority black Prince George's County, the video highlights a sensitive subject: the fear among minority drivers that they can be targeted by police because of their race.
"I'm 68 years old, and I know the problem," said Bob Ross, president of the Prince George's County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "And the fear and the panic of when police officers stop you."
The officers' actions displayed an insensitivity to the real fear that citizens may have about police, Mr. Ross said. But he doesn't think their appearance in the video should lead to termination.
"I would agree with a suspension rather than firing because they are young and immature," Mr. Ross said. "If they had done that without the uniforms and without the police car, it probably wouldn't have been a big deal. ... It really was a good skit but when you have government employees doing it, it's a different story."
The badges on the officers' police uniforms are blacked out throughout the video, but the county police logo is visible on the marked police cruiser used.
Credits at the beginning of the video identify the producer as D.C. comedian Rob Gordon, who on his official YouTube page has posted about a dozen other comedy skits.
Mr. Gordon declined to be interviewed when contacted Saturday through a booking agent.
Police officials said they think the video producer had approached the officers about appearing in the video.
The officers, whom the police department did not name, were described as 10-year and 3-year department veterans who work in the county's southernmost police patrol area, District 5.
Both have been suspended with pay while the department investigates the incident, but officials said Friday that they could potentially be fired.
"These officers are entitled to due process and we are going to let the investigative process play out," Fraternal Order of Police President Vince Canales said. "It does not reflect the attitude or the demeanor of our members who are out here doing the job on a day-to-day basis."