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Videos of police officers allegedly using excessive force during an arrest at a McDonald’s in Aspen Hill circulated on social media last week, outraging many county residents. Now one of the police officers involved is facing two charges stemming from the incident. Montgomery County Interim Police Chief Marcus Jones joins us to discuss what happened and what’s next for both the officer and the department.
Produced by Ingalisa Schrobsdorff
- Marcus Jones Montgomery County Interim Police Chief
SASHA-ANN SIMONSYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons sitting in for Kojo. Welcome. Later in the broadcast can incinerating trash be considered environmentally sound? But first, earlier this week a Montgomery County Police Officer was charged with assault and misconduct for using excessive force during an arrest on July 3rd. It's unusual for an officer to be criminally charged in cases like this. Joining us to discuss is the Interim Chief of Police for Montgomery County, Chief Marcus Jones. Chief Jones, are you there?
MARCUS JONESYeah, I am here. Good afternoon.
SIMONSThanks so much for joining us. Now, Chief Jones, what happened during the arrest? It was caught on video. So can you just give us a recap based on what you've seen.
JONESSure. So what occurred was that the defendant in this case was basically doing a drug transaction with one of our undercover officers or had prearranged to do one. At which point in time we discovered that he was at the McDonald's. We went to make the arrest. We asked him to get out of the booth and place his hands behind his back. He refused to do that. So then what started was basically a struggle to arrest him. At which point he resisted arrest. That continued. That started inside of the McDonald's and then it proceed to go outside of the McDonald's where he continued to be resistant and not adhere to the officers instructions.
JONESAnd at which point we see on the video where the officer even though -- it's my belief that they had him not so much -- well, they had him under control. I think they had enough officers there to control him. At which point in time the officer actually placed -- had the individual's head, pushed it very violently down on the pavement, and at which point in time I think that was what we deemed to be excessive.
SIMONSRight. And we could see that was the portion once they stepped outside of the McDonald's that's the part we could see on the video.
SIMONSAnd, of course, the suspect at the time appeared bloody, his mouth, from the contact.
JONESMm-hmm. That's correct. Yes.
SIMONSSo what was the officer actually charged with specifically and what does that mean? Like is he still on the job?
JONESSo, yes. He's still on the job. First of all, this goes through a criminal process. He was charged by the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office with second degree assault and he was also charged with a misuse of office. And in that particular -- for both of -- misconduct in office, I'm sorry. And in both of those charges he will face -- he'll go before a judge or a jury in order to adjudicate those charges from that aspect from a criminal aspect.
JONESWe will wait to do our internal administrative investigation once the criminal charges have been -- that case has been adjudicated. At which point in time then we will assess what policies that he violated for our department. And then we will conduct due process for -- via our administrative process in Montgomery County for the department.
SIMONSSo, Chief, this arrest as we mentioned was caught on cell phone video, but don't Montgomery County Police wear body cams? Is there any other footage?
JONESThat's correct. But what's different here is that we had a group of undercover officers, plain clothes officers that were involved in this arrest. They do not wear body worn camera videos due to their particular assignment and due to the fact that they are working more of in an undercover type status. So much of that video that you would normally see with a patrol officer who wasn't there at the initial arrest situation, you would not see all of what occurred there. So you are correct. We do wear body worn camera videos, but all of that was not captured on our body worn camera video.
SIMONSI see. Now there was quite a bit of pressure, of course, on the department after this video went viral including a protest that was organized on Tuesday by a group known as Showing Up for Racial Justice. Can you speak to that at all?
JONESYes. I mean, at the end of the day we were, you know, looking at this that all have always felt that we're accountable to the community. Even before we even -- I didn't hear about this protest until actually on I believe it was on Monday. But I will tell you that we had already been discussing it with my staff. In fact, we had already suspended Officer Moores. You know, removed him from duties on Friday. So, you know, again, we felt that we needed to look at this from a criminal aspect and we referred it to the State's Attorney's Office at which point in time Mr. McCarthy made the decision to actually file charges, which, you know, at this point in time we totally understand. And that was the way it was going to go.
JONESAnd so in response to the protest, I mean, we -- what they were protesting for as far as accountability we would agree that there needed to be accountability. And that's what we did.
SIMONSAnd a reminder, if you'd like to join our conversation give us a call at 800-433-8850 or you can email us at email@example.com. We're also on Twitter send us a tweet @kojoshow. Chief Jones, have assault charges ever been brought before against Montgomery County Police Officers, because of excessive force during arrest or is this a first?
JONESYes. They have.
JONESAnd I will tell you just last year in 2018 we had an officer, who was on trial for using excessive force in an arrest situation. It was a situation where -- in each of our use of force cases we require officers to file a use of force report. But also what we have demanded is that all of our executives at each district station and those, who wear body worn cameras, when that use of force is utilized is that we are viewing the actually body worn camera video to go along with the use of force report to make sure it is consistent with our policy. And whenever we see something that is outside that we think might have violated our policy or may in fact may lead to some criminal investigation, we will make that reference and we have done that.
JONESAnd we did that last year with an officer. He was actually charged with the same charges the second degree assault and the misconduct in office. He actually went to trial. The first trial was a hung jury. The State's Attorney decided to retry him and before he was retried, he resigned from office as a part of plea deal and so therefore he is no longer on our police department. So this is not the first time in our history have we charged an officer with assault based upon excessive force.
SIMONSOkay. And we have a caller on the line that I'd like to bring into the conversation. Steve is calling from Silver Spring. Hi, Steve.
STEVEHi. I have a question. Why would they even arrest this kid in McDonald's for psilocybin mushrooms? They're like legalizing them in some cities in the U.S. Maybe they didn't even have to beat the kid's head in, you know.
SIMONSThank you, Steve.
JONESSo the first thing I would tell him is that the mushrooms are illegal in the State of Maryland. So that is an illegal -- it's a hallucinogen drug, and so therefore we will enforce those laws that are on the book of those individuals who sell illegal drugs in our community.
SIMONSNow, Chief, even before this latest incident some have called for a civilian oversight board to oversee and make recommendations on police policy and procedures. That includes Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, who is drafting legislation along those lines. You think that would be a good idea?
JONESYeah. In fact, I spoke at Councilmember Riemer's announcement of this bill at his press conference on Tuesday. I believe that we, as far as the police department, we believe that, you know, we need to be transparent and we feel like we can be better partners with our community to have a formal connection via this commission. We are open to people looking at our policy and procedures that need to be reexamined. And we're committed to that. So we have no resistance to his bill whatsoever.
SIMONSNow, I'll take another call here. Andres from Columbia, Maryland is on the line.
ANDRESYes. How are you doing?
SIMONSHi. Good. Thank you so much. What's your question or comment?
ANDRESI guess it's a little bit of both. I mean, what would really be the outcome of this? I mean, police have been getting away with, I mean, literally murdering people on tape or on cell phone video or anything like that. I don't think any outcome or I mean punishment this officer is going to receive. And as far as Montgomery County -- I used to live in Montgomery County for over 25 years. And Montgomery County has always been known to rough people up.
ANDRESYou know, I got roughed up for looking like a -- I fit the description of a suspect they were looking for. One time at five in the morning I was coming out of the house to catch the ride-on bus in Germantown, Maryland. They tell me, oh, you fit the description. They roughed me up. You know what I mean? Looking at my book bag to see what I had. And the (unintelligible) at the time. And Montgomery County Police has always been known to doing this. I mean, plenty of time people fit the description and they go overboard. But this is more than a Montgomery County problem. This is a countrywide problem with police, yes.
SIMONSYou say there's no surprise here, Andres. Chief, any comments to that? He says this isn't news.
JONESNo. So my comment to him is that first of all we take in Montgomery County very seriously when these things are brought to our attention. I think the body worn cameras have given us another opportunity to look at the performance and the activities of our officers. Again, you know, these things that are brought to our attention via other sources where we have always utilized complaints and looked into those complaints now we have just an additional tool to look at it from a different set of eyes.
JONESSo we take this very seriously. And we have, you know, officers in past history, those that we deem to have used excessive force in cases we have charged those officers. And they've gone through the process of being disciplined over the years. And so, again, if people feel that way then we encourage them to contact our Internal Affairs Division. And we will take looks at those cases. But I'll tell you in every use of force of case that we have and that's reported that we look at those cases internally with a fine tooth comb now.
SIMONSThank you, Chief Jones. Now, a question, you are acting in this role at the time. Do you know when they'll decide on the permanent police chief?
JONESI am not absolutely sure. I would expect it to be some announcement in the coming days, but I'm not exactly sure when that's going to be.
SIMONSWell, thank you so much for your time once again. Chief Marcus Jones, Interim Police Chief of Montgomery County.
JONESThank you. And have a great day.
SIMONSWe'll continue our conversation on The Kojo Show after a short break. Stay tuned.
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