Council Seeks More Information after Officer's Racial Slur Caught on Video

Council Seeks More Information after Officer’s Racial Slur Caught on Video

Letter to police chief raises more questions about department's policies, practices

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Police released video of the loitering investigation on May 9 taken by one of the men involved in the incident as well as an officer's body camera.

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY Police

The Montgomery County Council is asking the county police department to release all officer body camera footage from a loitering investigation outside a White Oak fast-food restaurant last week where an officer used a racial slur.

All nine council members, led by at-large council member Will Jawando, are also requesting details about police stops and trespassing citations throughout the county, along with the department’s official policy against racial profiling.

Jawando also is asking about any agreements between a McDonald’s on New Hampshire Avenue and the department allowing officers to act as agents and detain people near the restaurant without a call to the police, a setup that he says is “ripe for racial profiling.”

In a letter to acting police chief Russell Hamill, the council asks him “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.”

The department has received the letter and is reviewing the request, a police spokesman said in an email.

A viral social media video posted May 9 showed a white officer make a derogatory remark while other officers fill out paperwork outside a White Oak McDonald’s restaurant. Police released some of the police department’s body camera footage from one officer later that night but the department has not said if other officers were recording the encounters. As many as nine officers responded to the trespassing call.

The department is conducting an internal affairs investigation and said in a statement that it “takes all allegations of racial discrimination seriously.”

The police have declined to name the officers were were involved or provide other information about their status.

The Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 does not condone discriminatory language nor do they believe there should be any discriminatory practices in policing, according to a statement issued last week.

Jawando spoke at a Silver Spring Justice Coalition rally on Monday and has met with two of the men involved in the investigation. His message was addressing the broader culture and leadership issues in the department, a point he makes in the letter.

“Most public interest and coverage of the incident has centered on the one female officer, clearly using the ‘N’ word during the exchange,” Jawando wrote in the letter. “However, the tone, language and actions of the sergeant on the scene was [sic] also contemptible. Other officers on scene seemed impervious to the words, actions and tenor of the actively detaining officers.”

Jawando also writes the four men issued trespassing citations “were not acting unlawfully,” and had not been asked to leave the McDonald’s by employees or officers. The men were waiting for a ride to work, and have since lost their jobs.

Jawando cites an agreement between the McDonald’s and the department allowing officers to act as agents and detain people near the restaurant without a call to the police, a setup that is “ripe for racial profiling.”

McDonald’s representatives could not be immediately reached for an opportunity to comment.

“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,” Jawando wrote in the letter.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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