Council Member Receives Hateful Messages in Response to Police Reform Efforts and Claim of Racial Profiling
Will Jawando is the second council member in as many months to report a large volume of hate mail
Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando says he and his staff in the last two months have received more than 150 hateful and sometimes racist messages since he accused the state police of racial profiling after he was stopped for a routine traffic violation and began efforts to reform the county police department.
Jawando, an at-large council member who was elected in November, said in an interview Sunday that the messages have come in the form of phone calls, emails and direct messages on social media. The messages have often included four letter curse words and some have used the n-word toward the council member, who is black.
“It’s a combination of libelous and racist and derogatory. It’s not representative of the county as a whole, but it’s a reminder that these elements are still out there,” he said.
Additionally, Jawando noted that a parody Twitter account was created on Friday called “OfficerJawando” that claims there is a police officer by the same name as the council member.
“I am so happy to see you involved in police matters! I know you… I mean “us” wanted to be cops Friday.when we were little kids. why didn’t you become one? I’m pretty sure you applied? Right?” the account tweeted on Friday.
In May Jawando sponsored legislation, signed by County Executive Marc Elrich, which requires an independent investigation by a law enforcement agency for any fatal officer-involved shooting. Jawando is also a co-sponsor of a bill that would create a 13-member police advisory commission to guide the department on best practices.
The council member said the volume of messages increased after he told the public of his traffic stop by a state trooper on June 8 for crossing a White Oak intersection stop line. Jawando said he believed he was stopped due to his race. The state police said Jawando was not profiled, but upon stopping him for a minor traffic infraction, he gave them an expired driver’s license. Jawando said he had lost his current driver’s license but had requested a new one.
Jawando said he reported the hate mail to Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones so that the department would have a record.
“It’s really unfortunate that’s where we are,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are doing that type of activity who think it’s okay. But it just reminds me that the work is important and we’re not going to be deterred in it.”
Jawando is the second County Council member to recently receive a large volume of hateful messages. Council member Evan Glass said he received more than 300 anti-LGBTQ emails during Pride month last month, in which LGBTQ culture is celebrated. Glass is the council’s first openly gay member.
While Jawando said he doesn’t feel unsafe, he said the messages are still concerning to him and his family.
“You obviously have to be careful. Some people have told me ‘watch out, there’s a lot of anger out here and there’s people looking to get you.’ … but I think I’ll keep proceeding and doing what we’re supposed to do and I think we’ll be okay,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org