Police Pledge ‘Transparency’ in Racial Slur Investigation
Department responds to County Council request for more details about officer's use of 'N-word' in front of black men
A county police officer shown in a video captured during an interaction at a Shell gas station in Silver Spring.
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The county police department is pledging “openness and transparency” in response to a letter signed by all nine County Council members that demands a thorough investigation into a video of an officer using a racial slur during a call about black men loitering outside a White Oak fast-food restaurant last week.
A viral social media video posted May 9 showed a white officer make a derogatory remark, and the department posted body camera footage and a full video taken by one of the men being questioned later that night, but has said little more about the case.
The release prompted at-large council member Will Jawando, with the support of the council, to send a detailed letter seeking additional footage of the incident, details about police stops and the department’s official policy against racial profiling.
“We call on you to detail how you intend to address these issues,” Jawando wrote.
The Silver Spring Justice Coalition held a rally on Monday that drew about 100 supporters, gathering at the 3rd District police station, in protest of the incident.
“We understand the importance of this matter and how it impacts our credibility and relationships with the community,” the department said in a statement issued Thursday night. “We also understand the pain and deep concern this incident has caused to so many people.”
County police spokesman Capt. Tom Jordan explained the department is still going through the body camera footage, redacting personal information and innocent bystanders. He added that it’s a lengthy process, but if additional video can be released, it will be.
As many as nine officers were at the call and police have not said whether they all were wearing body cameras, nor have they provided information about charges placed against the men who said they were waiting for a ride to their jobs.
The initial release was a roughly 12-minute clip showing the interactions of the female officer who made the derogatory remark. Jordan said the department initially focused on this footage because it was relevant to a video taken by one of the men and posted on the social media site Instagram, and now they’re going through the rest.
“It’s selective in the sense that that was the most pertinent one at the time, but obviously we’re going to look at all of it,” Jordan said.
The requests in the letter will be handled according to the laws and policies the information, the police department statement said.
No information has been released about the names or statuses of the officers involved in the incident, except that the female officer has been with the department for more than a decade. State law and the the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights prohibits putting out these details, according to the statement, which offered no additional explanation about the terms of the law, union contract or officers’ bill of rights that would restrict the release of additional information.
Jordan said the department understands the public wants to know how the officers will be disciplined, mainly the female officer featured in the video, but it has to protect itself against legal recourse.
“We’re wrestling with those questions right now with our legal team, because we know there’s a desire for people to know,” Jordan said. “Because it’s a personnel action, we have to be careful what we say.”
Charlie Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org