Council Seeks More Information From Police N-Word Incident

All nine Montgomery County councilmembers have signed a letter asking the police department to release all the body camera footage from the May 9 incident when an officer used a racial slur while African-American men were questioned for trespassing.

The letter, sent Tuesday, also asked Acting Police Chief Russell Hamill to eliminate tolerance for officers to act with disrespect or racial motivation.

“From what we have learned, we have reason to believe the actions by our county police violated department protocol and standards that we would expect of county-employed personnel,” the letter reads.

The incident occurred May 9 at a White Oak McDonalds. A number of black men were waiting for rides to work when officers stopped them and questioned them for loitering and trespassing.

“We’re in receipt of the letter and we’re currently reviewing it,” said Capt. Tom Jordan, police spokesman.

During the incident, a female officer is filmed using the N-word. She was recorded by one of the men on his cell phone. After it was posted publicly, Montgomery County police released her body camera footage. Several other officers took part in the stop. Their body camera footage has not yet been released.

“The incident last week damages the trust needed to help keep our community safe and does a disservice to officers who put their lives on the line and uphold the high standards of MCPD with dignity every day,” the letter reads.

Protesters took part in a demonstration outside the Silver Spring police district station Monday night. Speaking outside the station, Councilmember Will Jawando called on a full investigation, as well as all the trespass orders and where they have been written in the past two years.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear Chief Hamill,

We are writing today to convey to you our alarm and deep dismay over the actions of several Montgomery County Police Department officers who on Thursday, May 9, 2019, detained, frisked, and issued trespassing citations to four African-American men as they finished their breakfast outside of a White Oak McDonald’s while waiting for a ride to their jobs for the day.

We have seen the social media footage, reviewed the publicly available body-camera footage, and learned details of the incident from an in-person meeting between Councilmembers Jawando and Rice and two of the young men detained by MCPD. From what we have learned, we have reason to believe the actions by our county police violated department protocol and standards that we would expect of county-employed personnel.

As our Acting Police Chief, you are directly responsible for the management of our police force. In that regard, we write to encourage you to work to eradicate from MCPD any tolerance for behaviors that cause or encourage any officer to act in a manner that is unlawful, disrespectful or otherwise racially motivated toward any resident of Montgomery County. We recognize that we have great men and women who protect and serve our community. The incident last week damages the trust needed to help keep our community safe and does a disservice to officers who put their lives on the line and uphold the high standards of MCPD with dignity every day.

First, we learned from our meeting with those held by MCPD that they were issued trespassing citations by 3rd District officers despite the fact that at no time were they accused of trespassing, or asked to leave the restaurant by any employee or police officers. These young men were not acting unlawfully. In fact, they had purchased breakfast from the restaurant, and moved outside to finish their food while waiting for their scheduled ride to work. As we learned from our meeting with these young men, they have now lost their jobs as a direct result of this incident.

Second, but perhaps of even greater concern, is the broader issue of leadership and culture within the MCPD. As captured on the limited release of body-cam footage from one of at least six, possibly eight, officers who responded, our MCPD officers used reprehensible, demeaning and completely inappropriate language to refer to the very residents they are sworn to uphold and protect. Most public interest and coverage of the incident has centered on the one female officer, clearly using the “N” word during the exchange. However, the tone, language and actions of the sergeant on the scene was also contemptible. Other officers on scene seemed impervious to the words, actions and tenor of the actively detaining officers, although from publicly available footage the aforementioned behaviors would seem to be clear violations of departmental policy and common standards for human decency and could be construed as violations of the civil rights of our residents.

Third, we understand that McDonald’s has an agreement with MCPD that officers can act as their agents and stop and detain people in the immediate vicinity of that restaurant even though there has been no call for police. We are concerned that such an agreement creates a climate ripe for racial profiling and the loss of trust, accountability and transparency.

We call on you to detail how you intend to address these issues, what steps you will take to remedy the immediate situation for these four residents (including exploration of rescinding the trespassing orders), and what you will do to change the culture in MCPD that leads some individual officers to publicly flaunt not just department policy, but basic tenets of respect and professionalism when interacting with county residents. Specifically, we call on you as Acting Chief to:

  • Release body-cam footage from every responding officer from the morning of the incident.
  • Release the recording of any call(s) for service related to this specific stop either from the sergeant or from a non-police entity.
  • Release a list of the locations where the Montgomery County Police act as an agent for property owners where they are authorized by property owners to cite individuals for trespassing without being called to the scene for a specific reason.
  • Release the number and locations of all trespassing citations issued in the last two years in the case where no other arrest or other more serious charges were brought.
  • Release demographic and geographic statistics of every resident stopped and frisked and cited for trespassing in the last two years.
  • Explain and release the MCPD policy on stopping and frisking individuals.
  • Explain and release the MCPD policy on racial profiling. Thank you in advance for your attention to this incident.

Sincerely,

Will Jawando, Councilmember, At-Large
Nancy Navarro, Council President Craig Rice, Councilmember, District 2
Hans Riemer, Councilmember, At-Large Evan Glass, Councilmember, At-Large
Gabe Albornoz, Councilmember, At-Large Andrew Friedson, Councilmember, District 2
Tom Hucker, Councilmember, District 5 Sidney Katz, Councilmember, District 3

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