By Kevin O’Rourke
The heat is being turned up on the Montgomery County Police Department after Councilmember Cherri Branson asked Police Chief Thomas Manger to make public the results of the department’s investigation into an arrest of a 16-year-old male last week in Germantown.
The arrest, which the MCPD confirmed was under investigation, was videotaped by a WJLA news cameraman and shows the officer allegedly roughing up the teenager.
In the letter to Chief Manger and dated Aug. 15, Councilmember Branson states, “I believe it is crucial for this process to be thorough and I request that the results be made available to the public.”
“As you know, a video of the arrest has garnered considerable attention because of the officer’s potentially excessive use of force when it did not appear that the youth was behaving violently,” said Branson in the letter.
Corporal Rebecca Innocenti with the Montgomery County Police Department’s Public Information Office confirmed that Chief Manger has received the letter but added that it would be inappropriate for the chief to comment publicly on the matter until he’s had a chance to speak directly with Councilmember Branson first.
A resident of Silver Spring, Councilmember Branson, represents the Fifth District which is the southern-most district in in the county and includes Silver Spring, Burtonsville and Tahoma Park, said in the letter that while she served on the County’s Charter Review Commission she pushed for the creation of a Civilian Review Board “to participate in the analysis of complaints regarding police actions. Such an approach has worked well in other jurisdictions and helps to ensure transparency in the complaint review process. I pushed for the creation of such a board specifically to address incidents like this one,” the letter states.
Branson, who was appointed to serve out the remainder of former Councilwoman Valerie Ervin’s term on the Montgomery County Council in January, goes on to state that she is confident that under Manger’s leadership the department will address the matter and other “comparable complaints with the attention they warrant.” The letter goes on to ask that the public and County Council be kept informed about the review of the incident.
“Recent event around the nation have caused many people to raise questions about the use of force by law enforcement officers,” the letter says. “It is imperative that the residents of Montgomery County believe that the use of force is justified, examinations of the use of force are conducted with transparency, and officers who use excessive force are held accountable.”
The incident in question occurred shortly after 7:18 pm on Sunday, Aug. 10 near the Corner Bakery Café at 19820 Century Boulevard in Germantown. The video which, was initially shot from inside the café shows an unidentified Montgomery County Police Officer speaking with four or five teenagers on the sidewalk outside the café, the officer then grabs one of the teens by the shirt and pulls him through the walkway back to his police cruiser in the parking lot behind the café. The officer pushes and pulls the teen, eventually handcuffing and arresting him.
Montgomery County Police Department’s Public Information Office said the police communication center received two calls prior to the incident which was caught on video. The first call was at 5:33 pm and the complainant reported there were 15 teenagers that “looked like they were about to fight” near the intersection of Middlebrook Road and Celebration Way, which is around the corner from where the video was taken. Officers responded at that time, but were unable to locate the group of teens.
MCPD received a second call at 7:18 pm, in which the complainant reported a group of four or five teenagers smoking marijuana. When officers responded, the caller pointed out the teens in the video as those smoking who were smoking.
The incident is still under investigation, according to MCPD.
According to her Montgomery County Council biography web page, in 2005 Branson joined the staff of the U. S. House of Representatives, Homeland Security Committee and served as chief counsel for oversight where she developed the oversight agenda and was a member of the staff leadership team. She has a history of using the oversight process to achieve social justice outcomes. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she was responsible for several changes in policy regarding FEMA’s procurement from small, minority and disadvantaged local businesses.
Caption: Montgomery County Councilmember Cherri Branson - District 5