The Aug. 10 arrest of a 16-year-old in Germantown has sparked a Montgomery County Police investigation to determine if excessive force was used by the officer, and at least one council member is asking that the results be made public.
The teenager was handcuffed and taken into custody about 7:30 p.m. near Century Boulevard in the Germantown Town Center shopping area and filmed by Washington TV station, WJLA.
In a letter to Police Chief J. Thomas Manger Friday, Councilwoman Cherri Branson asked the chief to release the results of the investigation.
“I ask that you keep the public and the Council informed about the review of this incident,” Branson (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring wrote. “As you know, recent events around the nation have caused many people to raise questions about the use of force by law enforcement officers. It is imperative that 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.”
Branson said the video brought to mind a recommendation of the county Charter Review Commission that a Civilian Review Board be established to analyze complaints regarding police action.
“I just think that law enforcement has so much power that not having a civilian presence in the determination of excessive force complaints really doesn’t help people believe that that power is being used in a way that is fair,” she said. “The [current] process is completely internal. The problem with a completely internal process is that if there is a finding of excessiveness then that too remains internal.”
As for her letter, Branson said, “I just wanted to be certain that they are in fact investigating.”
Branson said she could not say from watching a video of the arrest if police used excessive force.
“What I don’t understand is ... why the kids were approached in the first place,” she said.
WJLA, an ABC affiliate, broke the story of the incident, which the station said was filmed by one of its photographers.
“Channel 7 WJLA sent us the tapes, and the mother of the 16-year-old asked for an investigation of all the circumstances surrounding the arrest, and we’re doing that,” said Police Department spokesman Capt. Paul Starks on Tuesday.
Starks said the officer was responding to a call, possibly two, to the police department about teenagers in the area possibly smoking marijuana, he said. Starks did not provide further details about the incident, saying is it being investigated.
When asked if the department would make the results of the investigation public, he said, “That’s not our policy, and I don’t know that it’s allowable under the law.”
Starks also declined through a spokesperson to confirm the name of the teenager or if he was charged with anything because he is a juvenile.
Starks said he was not able to talk to Manger on Tuesday afternoon, but did say, “We did receive [Branson’s] letter, and he’s reviewing it.”
“Each year, we have 1 million, if not more, contacts with people, and a fraction of 1 percent of those result in a complaint where there’s a sustained finding,” Starks said. “We’re not perfect, but we’re trying.”