In the wake of criminal charges being brought against a county police officer after an alleged incident of police brutality, some county officials and civil rights groups are calling for the termination of the officer and additional training for the department.
Kevin Moris, 31, was charged on Tuesday with second-degree assault and misconduct in office after kneeing a handcuffed suspect in the back of the head during an arrest at the Aspen Hill Shopping Center on July 3. A video of the incident was published on social media.
“You can’t use that level of force to beat someone’s head into the concrete, especially while they’re in handcuffs,” said at-large County Council member Will Jawando in a statement. “I think we need to send a strong message that that’s not appropriate.”
The suspect, Arnaldo Pesoa, 19, was charged with intent to distribute a controlled substance, resisting arrest and assault. He allegedly attempted to sell psilocybin mushrooms to an undercover police officer, according to charging documents.
In the 45-second video of the arrest, uploaded to Twitter last Wednesday, Pesoa is shown face down on the sidewalk with his hands restrained behind his back. Several officers are around him as he begins to struggle, and which point Moris knees him in the back of the head.
Interim Police Chief Marcus Jones said at a press conference Tuesday that he thought the officers had the incident under control, and he was bothered by the use of force by Moris.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave, Jones said. The department is not releasing his photo because he works in a plainclothes capacity.
Council President Nancy Navarro said Jones has agreed to meet with council members in two weeks to discuss strategies for improving the relationship between police and the community, including de-escalation training.
“Today is a somber and introspective one for Montgomery County because the overall reputation of our police department has been impacted by the excessive use of force by one police officer,” Navarro said in a statement. “It is important to reiterate that the Montgomery County Police Department is made up of men and women of integrity who pride themselves on high standards as they keep our County safe.”
Multiple local civil rights groups will gather at the county council building Tuesday night to protest the incident, calling for systemic changes in the department.
“Several officers stood by, criminally failing to protect the victim, and exposing the culture of apathy within the police department when it comes to protecting marginalized people,” Sue Udry, executive director of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, said in a statement. “The county and state must swiftly act to fire and decertify this officer so that we don’t pass this bad police officer off onto other communities that he will continue to victimize.”
The protest will precede a press conference regarding the Policing Advisory Commission bill, which would allow citizens to assist with county police department policy formulation.
Moris will appear in county Circuit Court for an initial hearing on August 2.
Pesoa will appear in county District Court on August 2.
Charlie Wright can be reached at email@example.com