2015 | Politics

Park Police Dashcam Video Shows Part of Interaction with Leggett

Video shows only last 30 seconds of county executive's encounter with Park Police officers

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A dashcam video shows only the tail-end of an interaction on election eve between Montgomery County Park Police officers and County Executive Ike Leggett. The video does not show the part when Leggett says a male officer screamed at him in a “harsh, negative unprofessional tone.”

The video is 39 seconds long and shows Leggett standing outside a sport utility vehicle at Good Hope Recreation Center in Silver Spring at 10:33 p.m. Leggett is seen holding a campaign sign and talking with a male officer and a female officer. After a brief discussion, both officers can be seen returning to their vehicles.

In an interview with Bethesda Beat last week, Leggett described the interaction that isn’t on the video. He said he was pulling up to the recreation center, a polling place, to place campaign signs. “Just as I’m getting out [of the car], [a] police officer—who turns out to be Park Police, a big guy—starts yelling and screaming and cursing about why am I there and that I had no right to be there…in such a harsh, negative unprofessional tone that I was literally stunned for a minute or two, just listening to what he was saying,” Leggett said.

When The Washington Post first reported Leggett’s account of the interaction in December, Park Police spokesman Lt. Rick Pelicano said the department had no record of a police car stopping at the community center when Leggett said he was there. Pelicano added that the park closes at 8 p.m., so anyone in the park would have attracted police attention.

In the interview with Bethesda Beat, Leggett said he read the Post’s story and said “there was sort of a suggestion by the Park Police… that they weren’t sure the incident had occurred.” By that point, though, Leggett said he had heard about the dashcam video.

Pelicano said he told the Post there was no record of the interaction in dispatch logs, not that there was no record on video. He said officers don’t notify dispatch every time they have an interaction with a citizen.

“We have encounters all day long with citizens,” Pelicano said.

Leggett said he doesn’t know why only the final 30 seconds of the interaction were recorded by the dashboard camera. “It was a dash[board] camera, but in some way—and we’re still trying to figure this out—they only have the last 30 seconds,” he said.

On Monday, when Bethesda Beat asked Pelicano why only the tail end of the incident was recorded, he said, “I don’t know…I think that’s when it was turned on.” He added that he didn’t know all the technical aspects of the cameras and that he has never operated them. However, he said another officer who has used the equipment told him the dashcams are constantly recording at 30-second intervals. That means when the cameras are turned on to save footage, they also save the previous 30 seconds before the camera was activated, according to Pelicano.

He said he hasn’t spoken to the female officer yet, but that she might have turned the camera on as she returned to her vehicle, and this could have resulted in the last 30 seconds being recorded.

When Pelicano was asked why she would turn the camera on after the interaction was over, he said, “We don’t know why it was done yet.”