David Myles, a candidate for Rockville City Council, says he was racially profiled last month while canvassing and a resident called the police.
Myles, who is black, is a pediatrician in the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring and is part of a five-candidate slate that is running in Rockville’s Nov. 5 municipal election. He wrote in a June 27 opinion piece in The Baltimore Sun that someone had seen him campaigning and called the Rockville City Police.
“Fortunately, the responding officer saw my ID badge, read over my campaign leaflet bearing my image and let me go on canvassing. While this may seem like a routine encounter, I (and many African Americans) see it as a blessing. The officer could have used lethal force as I pulled the leaflet out of my back pocket to show him,” Myles wrote.
In an interview with Bethesda Beat Monday, Myles said he wrote the op-ed because the public needs to be educated about difficulties candidates of color face with law enforcement.
“This is the third time it’s happened in three years and the first as a candidate,” he said of being questioned by police due to his race.
The Rockville City Police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Myles said his interactions with Rockville police have largely been positive when he has been stopped, but that the experience can initially be nerve wracking when thinking about the number of violent, and sometimes deadly, confrontations between police officers and black men that have occurred around the country recently.
“[Seeing] the police pull up behind me is unsettling, especially in this current climate,” he said. “Each interaction with the police increases the chances that something bad can happen.”
Myles said incidents such as the one last month are a disincentive to campaign in certain locations.
“In terms of day-to-day canvassing, going to neighborhoods, I get concerned this might happen again,” he said.
County council member Will Jawando was stopped on June 8 by a state trooper in White Oak for stopping inches over the white line designating an intersection. The state police said there was no “pretextual” intent based on Jawando’s race but that after he was stopped they learned his license had expired. Jawando was given a warning.
Then County Executive Isiah Leggett was questioned by a member of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Park Police in 2014 in Silver Spring while campaigning for his third term, one night before the election. Leggett said after a few minutes of being yelled at by a male officer, who said he had no right to be there, a female officer approached them and apologized to the county executive.
“I tried to make something positive out of it and to make it a teachable moment. Had there been a young kid or a teenager in that situation… you could have had a different kind of outcome,” Leggett said in an interview Monday.
Leggett, who left office in November after serving three terms as county executive, was both the first African American to hold that office and to be a member of the County Council, which he served on from 1986 until 2002. His initial campaign for council, he said, was one in which he was strategic about how he designed his candidate literature.
“We were so sensitive to the reaction in Montgomery County in ’85, that we decided for six months in the campaign not to have a photograph,” he said.
Leggett said he didn’t talk about racism at the time but was willing to make sacrifices if it meant progress for minority candidates in the county. He said the fact that he was elected handily that year and in six future races is a testament to the county’s diversity and acceptance of minority candidates.
“That doesn’t mean you won’t find some acts of discriminatory behavior, and that shouldn’t be accepted at all,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Myles was the “latest black man to be profiled by a law enforcement agency.” The police responded to a neighbor’s call, and Myles was complimentary of how Rockville police handled the situation.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org