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5th District Police Officer Indicted For Excessive Use of Force

A Montgomery County Police Officer assigned to the 5th District in Germantown has been indicted on charges related to the excessive use of force after he allegedly beat a prison in a 5th District jail cell while the prisoner was handcuffed.

Montgomery County Police announced that on Thursday, May 3, a Montgomery County grand jury has indicted Montgomery County Police Officer Devon Hitson, age 32, on charges of misconduct in office and second-degree assault. A warrant was issued for Hitson’s arrest.

The incident occurred in the 5th District – Germantown headquarters on August 1, 2017. Hitson has been suspended from duty as a police officer since 5th District command staff conducted a routine review of Use of Force reports filed by officers in the Germantown district on August 7.

According to police, Officer Hitson had completed a Use of Force report for an August 1, 2017, incident that occurred in one of the 5th District station prisoner holding cells and involved the use of physical force against an adult male prisoner. Officer Hitson completed the report as a department requirement that such a report be submitted when “force is used to counteract a physical struggle.”

Following the review of the report, staff viewed Officer Hitson’s body-worn camera footage of the August 1, 2017, incident and also viewed video of the incident from the video camera inside the prisoner holding cell. The prisoner holding cell video showed Officer Hitson assaulting the adult male prisoner in the cell while the prisoner was handcuffed behind his back.

The Montgomery County Police Department’s “Use of Force” policy states:

“Officers may only use force which is objectively reasonable to make an arrest, an investigatory stop/detention or other seizure, or in the performance of their lawful duties, to protect themselves or others from personal attack, physical resistance, harm, or death. The decision to exercise force must be based upon the circumstances that the officer reasonably believes to exist. In determining the appropriate level of force to be used by an officer, the nature of the threat or resistance faced or perceived by the officer as compared to the force employed should be considered.”

Officer Hitson was suspended from duty as a Montgomery County Police Officer, and was stripped of his police powers on August 8, 2017, said police.

The MCPD announcement about the indictment read, “The Department completed a criminal investigation into Officer Hitson’s actions and provided the State’s Attorney’s Office with the findings of that investigation. The State’s Attorney’s Office presented those findings and played the video from the holding cell to the grand jury yesterday. Based on the evidence presented, the grand jury indicted Officer Hitson on the criminal charges of misconduct in office and second-degree assault.”

“The prisoner was injured and was taken to a medical facility for treatment before being processed on that date in August,” said Capt. Paul Starks, a spokesperson for the MCPD. “He is our employee and we did conduct a criminal investigation. This incident has been in the hands of the State’s Attorney for quite some time.”

Hitson was hired as a Montgomery County Police Officer in February 2014 and was a patrol officer assigned to the 5th District. He remains on a suspended status and is on paid, administrative leave.

Once the criminal investigation is concluded with a resolution in the court system, the Police Department’s administrative investigation conducted by the Department’s Internal Affairs Division will begin, MCPD said.

Chief Manger said of the indictment of Officer Hitson, “Earning and maintaining the public’s trust is critical to the success of every police department. When an officer abuses his or her authority, he or she must be held accountable.”

5th District Commander Mark Plazinsk told Germantown Pulse, “I agree with Chief Manger’s statement. As the Commander of the 5th District, I am saddened by these allegations. This type of incident is not reflective of the great work done by the women and men who work for the MCPD.”

Officer Hitson has not yet been processed in the Montgomery County Court system, so the court has not determined bond information and a mug shot was not yet available.

File Photo by Germantown Pulse.