The timeline and cost for completing the Purple Line is up in the air after a judge ruled that contractors may quit in the middle of the project. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich weighs in on that, the latest coronavirus news and more.
Maryland Delegate Marc Korman joined The Politics Hour to talk about the pandemic, transportation and the latest in Maryland politics.
Maryland Enters Phase Three. Montgomery County Opts To Wait.
- Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced this week that Maryland will move into Phase Three of reopening this Friday.
- In Phase Three, all businesses can reopen in some capacity. Live entertainment venues and movie theaters can reopen at 50% capacity. Houses of worship and retail stores can operate at 75% capacity.
- Local governments are able to decide if their jurisdiction will move into Phase Three or wait. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has decided to keep the county in Phase Two for the time being.
- “Unfortunately, Governor Hogan’s strategy recently has been to sort of pass the buck to the counties, to leave to them the hard decisions about what needs to stay closed and what can reopen,” Korman said on The Politics Hour. He also said the governor hasn’t engaged with county leadership since May.
Despite Changes, Beltway Expansion’s Price Tag Remains The Same
- Maryland’s State Highway Administration and the Federal Highway Administration are holding public hearings on the 18,000 page environmental impact statement for Hogan’s plan to widen I-270 and I-495.
- The plan, initially announced by the governor in September 2017, has undergone significant changes since its inception. But the price remains the same, hovering around $9 billion.
- Lawmakers, including Korman, have criticized the way pricing estimates around this project have been handled.
- Korman says the governor is misleading people by claiming that using a public-private partnership for this project will cost no money to taxpayers. “I get it, people don’t like traffic and congestion. I don’t either,” Korman said on The Politics Hour. “But that doesn’t mean that this one idea is the best way to address the challenge.”
Maryland Official Fired Over Facebook Post Supporting Kenosha Shooter
- Arthur “Mac” Love IV was fired from his role as deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives this week after posting statements and images on Facebook that expressed support for the 17-year-old who is charged with killing two protesters with a firearm in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
- Love’s former role oversaw the state’s ethnic and cultural commissions.
- At a news conference this week, Love says he’s looking to pursue legal action against the state.
- He also compared his actions to that of Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s chief of staff Len Foxwell, who in April wrote a post on Facebook mocking those who defied social distancing rules. Foxwell remains in his position.
- On The Politics Hour, Korman said this isn’t a First Amendment issue since Love was an at-will employee. “Governor Hogan, I think rightly, found that these statements were not appropriate,” said Korman.
Peter Newsham, chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, joined The Politics Hour to talk about the recent police shooting and protests in D.C. following the March on Washington.
Police Officer Fatally Shoots 18-Year-Old In Southeast D.C.
- MPD Officer Alexander Alvarez fatally shot 18-year-old Deon Kay in Congress Heights on Wednesday. A press release from MPD says the officers were at the location to “investigate a man with a gun.”
- Kay’s death sparked protests at the 7D police station on Wednesday night and outside of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s house on Thursday morning.
- The police department released the body camera footage of the shooting on Thursday. The video shows the incident, including what the department believes to be Kay brandishing a firearm before Alvarez shot him.
- Newsham said that the officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave and that MPD is investigating the incident.
- “There was a lot of misinformation that was being quickly put out on social media about this case,” Newsham said on The Politics Hour. “He was not a juvenile; he was a young man. He was not unarmed. He was not shot in the back. And his hands were not up at the time of the shooting.”
Protests After The March On Washington
- Following last Friday’s March on Washington, local and out-of-town protesters took to the downtown D.C. streets.
- Protesters said that policing tactics were some of the most aggressive they’d seen. Police officers used flash bangs and chemical irritants.
- A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department said that some protesters were intent on damaging property, injuring officers and inciting “riotous behavior.”
- On The Politics Hour, resident political analyst Tom Sherwood said that some people think the mayor and D.C. police are being “tough on protesters,” a characterization that Newsham took issue with. “We have protests in this city every single day, peaceful protests,” he said. “Nobody is being hard on any protesters. People who come to this city and violate the law are going to be arrested.”
D.C. Officials’ Relationship With The U.S. Attorney For D.C.
- Earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser seemed to place much of the blame for this weekend’s protests on “outside agitators.” She also criticized the U.S. Attorney for D.C.’s office for not prosecuting people who allegedly engaged in violent acts during summer protests.
- The U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin fired back in a letter, saying that evidence MPD provides for the cases dictates if people are charged. Sherwin said that in most cases, MPD’s documents about the arrests “lacked sufficient probable cause to support any criminal charge.”
- Sherwin met with Newsham to discuss the arrests and potential charges. In a letter to Newsham following the meeting, Sherwin wrote, “As we further discussed, you should not take my letter of September 1, 2020 as suggesting that there had been no probable cause for the arrests,” and that his office will be charging a number of arrestees.
- On The Politics Hour, Newsham explained his conversation with Sherwin: “He said he wrote that letter in a moment of anger, and that’s why he wrote the correction. He was mistaken when he was saying there was not probable cause.”
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODHello, everybody.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be taking with Peter Newsham, the Chief of Police for the Metropolitan Police Department. Joining us now is Marc Korman, a Member of the House of Delegates representing District 16 in Montgomery County. He is a Democrat. Delegate Korman, thank you very much for joining us.
MARC KORMANThanks for having me on.
NNAMDITom, before we start our conversation with Delegate Korman, D.C. had -- Mayor Bowser put together a committee to talk about looking at changing the names and maybe contextualizing some of the monuments all around Washington D.C. Apparently they came up with some changes to some federal monuments also, but apparently that was changed. What happened?
SHERWOODThis was a good idea, but the roll out of it was terrible. The mayor put together a task force to look at all types of names of places and streets, schools, etcetera in the District eyeing the controversy over confederate names and other names that might be inappropriate in a modern day world. The task force released that 25 page study with all kinds of names in the city. But it also included the section that mentioned that the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial and other federal memorials ought to have more context around them rather than just be as they are now.
SHERWOODWell, that got interpreted in the news accounts across the nation that the city wanted to change the name of the Washington Monument and change the name of the Jefferson Memorial. The Interior Department went nuts over it. The White House complained about it. And because it was so poorly understood, the mayor removed the federal section from the report. And in her press conference just a short time ago, she said there was just too much misunderstanding. That the city wants more context around the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, but it really did sour the overall report by mixing both local and federal monuments.
NNAMDIWell, have to see where we go from here. And then Attorney General in Virginia, Mark Herring, was widely expected to run for governor. But he says, No, next year I'm going to run for the position I already have, attorney general. Why do you think he changed his mind or why do you think he decided to simply stay the course?
SHERWOODHe had already filed paperwork to run. But Mark Herring may have seen his last chance ever to be governor come to an end. You know, he was elected in 2013. He's been a very popular governor among -- I mean, attorney general among Democrats in the state. He won reelection in 2017. Back in 2017, he also was going to run for governor. But he decided that Ralph Northam, then the lieutenant governor, probably had a better chance to be elected governor. So Mark Herring run for attorney general for a second time.
SHERWOODThis time around he has decided to seek a third term as attorney general in part because you may remember back in February of last year he was caught up in the blackface scandal that also ensnarled the governor. Mark Herring acknowledged that as a college student in the 1980 at the University of Virginia he had done a blackface caricature. And so since then he's had a difficult time preparing to run for governor.
SHERWOODMeanwhile, Former Governor Terry McAuliffe, State Senator Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and State Senator Jennifer Foy of Prince William have all begun their own campaigns to likely run for governor next year. And I think he just decided he would stay as attorney general.
NNAMDIDelegate Korman, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced this week that the state is entering phase three of reopening meaning all businesses can reopen in some capacity, movie theaters, live entertainment venues with limited capacity, houses of worship, retail stores. Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich said he was surprised by the announcement and that Montgomery County will stay in phase two for the time being. What do you think of Governor Hogan's decision?
KORMANYeah, I mean, unfortunately Governor Hogan's strategy recently has been to sort of pass the buck to the counties to leave to them the hard decisions about what needs to stay closed and what can reopen. You know, the governor hasn't engaged with the county leadership. That's all the counties in the state, I think since -- their last call was in May. His staff has been in contact, but not the governor himself. So, you know, he holds these surprise press conferences and just leaves it to the locals to figure out what, you know, they can safely reopen and when.
KORMANYou know, Montgomery County has had a pretty high rate of cases. We've had, you know, I think it's around 7700 deaths in Montgomery County -- or in the State of Maryland rather. So it's -- hearts go out to those families. About 800 deaths or so in Montgomery County, so, you know, you just have to make sure you're taking it seriously. And, you know, different counties are in different positions. I think Garrett County has had many no deaths, very few cases. So the whole state is not the same. And the governor has sort of gotten used to saying, you know, counties it's up to you. I'm just going to change the default rule at the statewide level.
NNAMDIWhat do you think is the cause of his reluctance to speak with the counties himself?
KORMANI don't know what changed. I mean, when the governor, you know, started off he was having a weekly call with county leadership and was very engaged with them. And just over time that's sort of fallen away, but the crisis hasn't. Obviously we're still facing, you know, both a health crisis and an economic crisis that accompanies it. But the governor's engagement personally with the county executives of our counties has shifted.
NNAMDIApparently he feels the same way about you the way he feels about us. Here's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODDelegate, thanks for joining us today. You know, I was just looking at the news. The University of Maryland has suspended all athletic training activities at the university for the foreseeable future. The Baltimore Parks and Recreation Department just announced, I think, last night that it is suspending all organized youth activities throughout the fall. Although, adults can still gather. Maryland and Montgomery County as you just discussed has been slow to start reopening the schools. The State Board of Education is now requesting that by November all local school districts present plans to resume in-person learning. It still seems to me that the governor and the local jurisdictions are not on the same page.
KORMANYeah, I mean, I agree they're not on the same page. I mean, you know, that was another press conference of the governor sort of making the demand that students go back to school. I'll say as a parent of two young kids, for a lot of practical reasons I would love to see students back in the schools. I think everybody shares that goal. It's just a question of how you do it safely and responsibly.
KORMANMontgomery County spent a lot of time over the summer trying to figure out how to do that. They had I think it was College Gardens Elementary was setup as sort of a test bed school of, you know, how you could have maybe A shifts and B shifts and do socially distanced. It's complicated. It's not just the classrooms. It's kids moving in the hallways. It's how do they eat lunch. It's how do you deal with the playground equipment. It's how do you bus the kids to and from school.
KORMANYou know, a lot of our schools in Montgomery County are way over capacity, way more kids than what there is space for, obviously, predating the pandemic. So a socially distanced school environment is pretty complicated. Now, no doubt, a virtual school environment is pretty complicated as well. But right now that's the safer course.
SHERWOODYou have school age children I think. How are you personally dealing with school at home?
KORMANSo we're getting used to a lot of Zoom. We got a new router from Verizon Fios to try to help with our bandwidth and are just dealing with the same difficulties a lot people are dealing with. You know, we're luckier than we most. We didn't need to -- we don't rely on the school system for our children's meals. We didn't need to get a myfi device. Thankfully those things are available for the families that need them.
KORMANAnd it's definitely a hardship for families to have students home. I understand that. I appreciate that. But we also need to be cognizant of the fact that it's also a hardship for people, who have COVID-19 and have significant health impacts possibly death as a result of that.
NNAMDIOur guest is Marc Korman. He's a Member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 16 in Montgomery County. Delegate Korman, you are on the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Employee Oversight, which is currently reviewing the Maryland Environmental Service. It's Former Head Roy McGrath received a six figure severance package when he left to be Governor Hogan's chief of staff. Board members of the agency who approved the package said that McGrath indicated Hogan supported the severance package. The governor has claimed he did not approve it. What have you learned so far about how McGrath negotiated this payment and the culture at the agency?
KORMANYeah. It's certainly an eyebrow raising situation. You have a person moving within state government. So from the Maryland Environmental Service to the governor's office. Basically a lateral move in terms of his pay, getting an extra year of pay and severance for that lateral move as well as a lot of other things that have come out. You know, we've now had access to his expense reports and this is a gentleman Mr. McGrath, who put in as he was walking out the door over $50,000 in expense reimbursements covering on over a year and a half period including all sorts of trips, international trips, dinners, Costco membership. And this was on top of tens of thousands of dollars in expenses sought, you know, during his terms of service at the Maryland Environmental Service.
KORMANYou know, his story and what he has represented is different than what the governor has represented. The governor says he's known nothing about this. And Mr. McGrath says the governor endorsed him receiving the severance package. As the Chair of the Joint Committee Delegate Erek Baron has said both of those things can't be true. And so we're in process of trying to figure out which one is. And unfortunately Mr. McGrath thus far has declined to appear before the Joint Committee to explain his side of the story.
NNAMDIWhat steps do you think need to be taken to prevent something like this from happening in the future? Do laws need to be put in place? Is more oversight needed?
KORMANYeah. So I think first of all we need to make sure that these sort of non-strict state agencies -- I mean, yes, this is somewhat unusual entity not to get into too much wonkery here. But it has sort of an independent board that's appointed by the governor. The governor appoints the executive director. But they all sort of report up the same way that a typical state agency does. We have a few odd ducks like that in state government. And we need to sort of look at them comprehensively and make certain that none of them have practices that would allow this. And put into place either internal practices at those agencies or state statutes, state laws, as you said to prevent things like this from happening.
KORMANYou know, make clear what expense reimbursement is allowed. The timeline for reimbursing expenses, which already was an internal policy that Mr. McGrath appears to have violated. You know, things about compensation and severance. It's a state agency. It's created in state law. They, you know, are part of the state system. And this is just not what you would expect of your state public servants to get this kind of a package as they're basically walking to another job in state government.
NNAMDIWe only have about less than a minute left in this segment. So Sandy in Bethesda, can you make your question quick and we'll have it answered after the break.
SANDYOkay. Two quick question. Don't forget the Beltway. If it moves forward, if it moves forward, you know, environmental protections need to me made including sound barriers, waste water management and that. And on a second issue I didn't mention to the nice lady. On mail-in voting, you know, I understand that they only will start counting our mail in votes after the Election Day. Given the concern that somebody might claim the election before all the votes are counted. Why not have a law and address that? Thank you.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, Delegate Korman will respond. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Marc Korman. He's a Member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 16 in Montgomery County. And when we took that break, Delegate Korman, our caller wanted to address two issues. One of them mail-in voting and the other having to do with plans to widen I-270 and I-495. I know that the Federal Highway Administration is holding hearings on what is an 18,000 page environmental impact statement for Governor Hogan's plans. So you take it away.
KORMANSure. Well, let me start with the question about the voting. That law was changed just as it was for the primary. The State Board of Elections has determined that the counting can start as early as October 1st for the return ballots. It will be similar to how we do early voting where the votes are cast early. They're counted early, but they're not released. So we're not going to see on October 2nd, you know, how Donald Trump is doing versus Joe Biden in Maryland or the spoiler alert, Joe Biden is going to win Maryland pretty soundly.
KORMANI would like to remind the listeners that unlike the primary, you are not going to automatically receive a ballot in the mail. What you're receiving in the mail automatically is an application for a ballot. So you need to fill out and send it back in if you want to get your ballot in the mail. Also, all the high schools will be open on Election Day as voting centers as well as our normal early voting centers in the week or so leading up to Election Day. So it's going to be a little different than a normal election, but there are lots of opportunities to have your voice heard.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from David who said, "My wife has twice requested an absentee ballot using the State Board of Elections website. She just emailed the Board of Elections, who says that they have no record of her application. How can this be fixed before thousands of people are disenfranchised?"
KORMANWell, I don't know the particular circumstances of that case. I have lots of constituents who have successfully been to apply for the absentee ballot. But if the listener wants to Goggle me and send me a message I'm happy to follow up with the state or his local board in his behalf to figure out what's going on.
NNAMDIOkay. On the question of I-270.
KORMANSure. So that one's obviously a little bit more complicated, but we've known for about four years now that the governor is fixated on adding two lanes in each direction on all of the Capital Beltway and 270. And the stage of the process we're at now is twofold. One is the environmental review. That's the draft environmental impact statement you describe, which lists a bunch of different alternatives for what could be constructed along I-270 and I-495. And then we have a parallel process, which is the contracting process, because the governor wants to use a public-private partnership, which he misleading claims will mean that it costs no dollars to taxpayers to build this thing.
KORMANThat P3 is all premised on the idea that we're going to build two lanes in each direction. So the EIS process is a bit of a mirage, because it talks about lots of different alternatives. There's really only one alternative. The thing Governor Hogan has always said he wants to build, which is two new lanes in each direction all the way around the Beltway and up 270 all the way into Frederick.
KORMANAnd that's sort of regardless of the environmental degradation that you're caller was describing. It's been regardless of any cost issues, any issues with, you know, houses or other parkland, other places that would have to be taken in order to build that. That's been the governor's fixation. I get it. People don't like traffic and congestion. I don't either. But that doesn't mean that this idea is the best way to address the challenge.
NNAMDITime runs out very quickly in these segments. So I'd like to get to this before we run out of time. You're a bibliophile and you've been involved in an extracurricular activity involving books. I know Tom Sherwood would like to ask you about it. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODYeah. I want to ask about the Purple Line too. But Mr. Delegate -- Delegate Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters wrote a great story about you and the delegate from Baltimore who's name I've lost.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) You guys have come up with a list that's 50 something books that new legislators ought to read in order to be fully prepared in the General Assembly. I would ask you -- that's a great list. But how about naming two books that you think new political people should read. And I even have another question about the chief of staff. But go ahead.
KORMANThis was a crowd sourced list. So Senator McCray and I are both avid readers and had our own suggestions. We also reached out to about 30 other people, who have been in and around the Maryland General Assembly for years including guys like Chris Van Hollen who is both a delegate and a state senator, Nancy Cot, Maryland's long serving State Treasurer, other folks like that. And the two all name, one is "Heavy Lifting" by Allen Rosenthal. It's about how state legislatures operate. There's a lot of books about how the federal government. But "Heavy Lifting" is really focused on the legislators. The other one "Master of the Senate" by Robert Caro, which I'm sure Mr. Sherwood has read about how Lyndon Johnson operated in the Senate.
SHERWOODCan I go back to McGrath very quickly, the chief of staff, because this is important? The governor has been trying to distance himself from Roy McGrath. But, you know, Roy McGrath worked on Hogan's 1992 campaign when Hogan ran against Danny Hoyer. He has been on the committees to elect the governor both times. And so he can't really distance himself. This is one controversy. Last year there was a controversy over the medical -- the University of Maryland medical services and the Mayor of Baltimore and Holly books and the misspending and all of that. Why isn't there more oversight of how these independent agencies spend their money? And why aren't more of them made to do their online meetings making them online?
KORMANYeah. So that's what I was describing in the need for more --
NNAMDIYou're fading in and out. While we try to straighten that out let's give a listen to Laura in Silver Spring, Maryland. Laura, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURAHello. Hi. Marc knows me. I work on facility issues a lot as an advocate for schools. And I understand Hogan released $10 million to help schools reopen. But Montgomery County has serious HVAC issues. And they just asked for $6.8 million shore up the HVAC systems to get ready for in-person learning. I wanted to know if there's anything we could do to help get more help, you know, to the local school systems to reopen.
NNAMDIDelegate Korman, are you there?
KORMANI am. So, first of all, Mr. Sherwood's question. Absolutely that's where we need to look. A number of these government agencies like the medical system and MES as well as -- there's an agency called MEDCO, the Maryland Economic Development Corporation, the Maryland Stadium Authority, a lot of these and make sure they're, you know, following proper practices. And we do have that efforts to put more of their meetings online. I sponsor legislation with your guests from I think last week or two weeks ago. Senator Kagan to make sure our State Board of Election meetings were online. And we're going to be building on that further this upcoming legislative session.
KORMAN(unintelligible) absolutely. There's going to need to be a real prioritization on sort of pandemic and recovery related issues with school construction. The state budget is going to be very tight. But, of course, school construction has been a long time priority for the State of Maryland. And so, you know, we're going to do everything we can to make sure the districts have the resources they need to safely reopen.
NNAMDILast weekend the Deputy Director of the Governor's Office of Community Initiatives was fired after posting statement, memes and images on Facebook supported of the alleged shooter in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Arthur Love says he's looking into legal remedies for his termination and that he should not be penalized for showing his opinion online. Are there ethics guidelines around political statements by government employees made on social media? And is this a First Amendment issue?
KORMANWell, he's an at will employee. So it's really not a First Amendment issue. The governor can hire and fire him as he, you know, sees fit. And so that's what happened in this circumstance. Governor Hogan I think rightly found that these statements were not appropriate especially given that person's position, which I think would involve community outreach. And so he made the decision to part ways with him. I think that was the right decision.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, we only have about a minute left, but go ahead, please.
SHERWOODI don't think -- were you able to say what's the status of the Purple Line, the worries that it won't be complete. Can you sum up that?
KORMANSure. Thank you. So we actually had a briefing on this yesterday with the secretary of transportation who described in great detail a lot of the different options going on including litigation, the state taking over and so on and so forth. But his bottom line was the one option they're not looking at is not completing the project. So it's certainly been a challenging process. But in the end getting that suburb to suburb transit connection is going to be really important. I appreciate that the state recognizes that and is moving forward even under these difficult circumstances.
NNAMDIIn the little time we have left, Peter emails, "Washington National Airport rerouted its flight path over a year ago. And now there's excessive plane traffic over the Southern Montgomery County neighborhoods. BWI has just been awarded a grant to address noise abatement." What happened to this area?
KORMANYeah. So we have a -- legislation was put in and passed and funded to study noise issues in BWI. And the view was we could then apply some of the lessons learned there to the similar challenges faced around National and Dulles because there has been a huge negative impact from basically the channelizing of air routes over Montgomery County. Working very closely on that with a lot of the community advocates, our County Council, our county executive and our congressional delegation to try to solve that issue.
NNAMDIMarc Korman is a Member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 16 in Montgomery County. He's a Democrat. Delegate Korman, thank you for joining us.
KORMANThanks again for having me.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. Next up, Peter Newsham, Chief of the Police for the Metropolitan Police Department. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us now is Peter Newsham, the chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Newsham, thank you for joining us.
PETER NEWSHAMGood afternoon. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, before we get to Chief Newsham, you broke the story yesterday that D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean will be stepping down. Tell us about that, Sherwood.
SHERWOODYes, the mayor confirmed by reporting yesterday, this morning, she honored Chief Dean who has been the fire chief for the last five years. I think it's widely accepted that Chief Dean came into a department that was roiled by management issues and problems with the union and all sorts of things, and the fire -- ambulance service, and has been widely credited with calming everything down. He hasn't been in the news very much. The ambulance service is, but he's done a very good job, most people say, and she honored him.
SHERWOODThe mayor, today, also picked Assistant Chief John Donnelly, who's been with the department since 1992, to be the new interim fire chief. And he'll be working, of course, with the police chief, Peter Newsham.
NNAMDIDid you work well with Gregory Dean, Chief Newsham?
NEWSHAMOh, I got to tell you, this was a great guy to work with. Very professional. You know, he has 50 years of fire service, you know, which is -- and he does it in a way -- and I think you probably -- this has been your experience, as well, it's very quiet, but he did turn around an agency that had a number of issues over there. He has the support of his team. You know, I have mixed feelings. Very sad to see a good friend leave, but very happy for him and, you know, hoping he has the best that life has to offer in front of him.
NNAMDIOnto what else is in the news, Chief Newsham, a D.C. police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Deon Kay in Congress Heights earlier this week. MPD released the body cam for this from the officer, Alexander Alvarez, yesterday. Can you tell us about that situation? Why were the officers on the 200 block of Orange Street Southeast in the first place?
NEWSHAMSo, they had been viewing -- and this is according to their statement -- they had been viewing a live streamed video of some men in a car with weapons. And they went over to interdict those weapons at the time. One of the officers, as you know, ended up chasing one of those guys when they got up. One of the guys ran from the car. When he turned back around, Deon was there and had a weapon in his hand. The officer discharged one round, and, unfortunately, a young man lost his life.
NNAMDIYou said at a press conference yesterday that the gun was found almost 100 feet from where Mr. Kay was shot. Do you know why and was it the same gun that was displayed in the video?
NEWSHAMYeah, I know everybody wants answers now, and that's why these investigations take as long as they do. There's a lot of evidence that we don't have in this case. The one thing that I already mentioned is we had one young man who ran from that scene. We have not found that person. I'm sure he has some information. There's potentially other video in that area, privately owned video. There could've been witnesses looking out of their windows. And we don't have any forensics. We don't have any forensic information.
NEWSHAMSo, you know, the idea behind releasing the video is, of course, you know that the council passed legislation this past spring requiring it in five days. But there was a lot of misinformation that was being quickly put out on social media about this case, and it was causing quite a stir in the community. You know, you saw things on social media such as, he was a juvenile, that he was unarmed, he was shot in the back, his hands were up at the time of the shooting. And that's kind of why we decided we needed to expedite the release of this video.
NEWSHAMThis video is not going to give us all the answers as to what happened. That's going to require a much more further and intensive investigation. But it did, I think for most folks, you know, some of the facts that were out there are -- inaccurate information was out there could be corrected pretty quickly with the video. He was not a juvenile. He was a young man. He was not unarmed. He was not shot in the back, and his hands were not up at the time of the shooting. And those are some facts that we will use to forward our investigation.
SHERWOODChief, thank you for joining us. I slowed the video down when I looked at it 25 different times, and I saw the gun. It appears he's throwing the gun away. I acknowledge you can't decide if he's going to be throwing the gun away or raising it to point at the officer. And we're talking about fractions of seconds here, so I understand that.
SHERWOODI also understand, though, that there were two videos, that when the police department first briefed some reporters, there was a slowdown version, where you briefed some reporters you called in. But there's a longer version, and the first 30 seconds or so, there is no sound. You cannot hear the police officers saying what they're going to be doing if they get out of the car to confront the people who are running away with guns. Why is there no sound on that? And could we see a video with all the sound?
NEWSHAMYeah, that's a great question. There is no sound that was captured, so there is -- actually what the police camera is also on, but it's not always recording. But it does record -- it will capture a period of time prior to the camera being activated. And I don't know if that makes sense to...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) That's called -- that's called the pre-roll. It's called -- in the business, it's called the pre-roll, but it's not that long, normally.
NEWSHAMI think the pre-roll on ours is about two minutes...
NEWSHAM...so it'll reach back two minutes to the point where the officer actually activates the camera. And that's the technology we have. In fact, you know, we're working with Axon to get a longer pre-roll, because, as you can imagine, in a circumstance like that, high stress, unanticipated when you're facing a person with -- an armed gunman, that turning on your camera is going to be difficult. Thankfully, this officer was able to do that.
SHERWOODThere was video, Facebook video someone posted of the dead man, prior to this incident, brandishing guns. Have you -- when will -- how quickly will you determine that the gun that was recovered has the fingerprints of the man who was shot? To be clear, the man is 18 -- was 18 years old.
NEWSHAMWell, that will be -- that will be -- yeah, we're not going to -- you know, the idea here is not to piecemeal, you know, bits and pieces of information in this particular case. Our goal is to get all of the information in the case, make a determination -- get that information over to the U.S. attorney's office so they can make a determination whether or not the actions were criminal. That's an independent review that's done for all police-involved shootings involving the Metropolitan Police Department here in the District. When they complete that, we will do a more thorough administrative review to ensure that the use of force was in compliance with the policies that we have.
NNAMDIHere is Stephanie in Silver Spring, Maryland. Stephanie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEPHANIEHi. Good afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to allow me to ask this question. Really, my question for Chief Newsham is, in what situation -- how do you determine whether nonlethal force or lethal force is used? It seems like MPD has a nasty history of using lethal force when it's not necessary, this case included.
STEPHANIEI think you guys were just discussing some of the videos that were circulating on the internet. And several news sources have released information saying that Deon threw his gun a solid 98 -- it was like 98 feet away, or something. Regardless, the gun was thrown quite far away from officers, so why was lethal force used in this situation? And are officers not trained to subdue suspects without killing them?
NEWSHAMSo, the -- I will answer that. This is a very good question. So, police officers at the Metropolitan Police Department get intensive training on use of force, particularly the use of firearms, which can be deadly, as we've all seen. And so, one of the things that an officer has to consider, and as you can see in this circumstance, in a matter of instances is whether or not his life or the life of another is in jeopardy.
NEWSHAMIf his life or the life of another is in jeopardy, then they can use force. Police officers do not want to use force under any circumstances. But, unfortunately, part of our job requires that we do use force when our life or the life of another is in jeopardy.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Stephanie. Here's Brian, in Washington, D.C. Brian, your turn.
BRIANYeah, my question to Chief Newsham is, beyond this case, where are we with getting more guns off the street? Where are we with closing some of these homicides? And can you give us an update on the young off-duty police officer that was shot? And, you know, how (word?) can we be with getting these guns off the street? I was born and raised here, lived through the ‘80s. It's a problem in Columbia Heights, where I live. It's a serious problem with all the shooting back and forth. And how we can do better, Chief?
NEWSHAMSo, you know, I would agree with you that we have far too many illegal firearms in our community. And all of the data that we have suggests that the use of those illegal firearms in our community is increasing. And it's been increasing for the last three years, which is scary for everyone. And our department has made it a priority to try to get these illegal firearms out of our community.
NEWSHAMJust this morning, in the 7th District, 70 officers were able to disarm a subject who had actually fired his gun, and actually had two guns on him at the time. And they did that without incident. Last year, the Metropolitan Police Department recovered over 2,000 illegal firearms in the District of Columbia. In almost all of those cases, that was done without our police officers having to use force. Unfortunately, circumstances do arise, like did with Deon yesterday, where an officer felt like he did need to use force.
NEWSHAMSo, getting these illegal firearms out of our community 100 percent is a priority for the police department. And I thank you so much for asking about our office who was shot. This is a young lady and she was very, very seriously injured. I was able to go visit her recently. She is recovering, but she still is in a place where we don't know if she will make a full recovery. So, I thank you for saying that and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.
NNAMDIChief Newsham, your department has come under criticism for its handling of ongoing protests. Last weekend, officers used flashbangs and chemical irritants on protesters, tactics the D.C. Council's Emergency Police Reform legislation limits. Is the department compliant with that legislation?
NEWSHAMWe are, and that's a great question, because I think there's a lot of confusion as to what peaceful protests are, versus riotous behavior that we have here in Washington, D.C. And I think last weekend, you know, with the events at the RNC and then following into the march that we had in Washington, D.C. on Friday, and then we had a couple nights of violence Saturday and Sunday, is a prime example.
NEWSHAMOn that Friday, when we had the march here in Washington, D.C., we had tens of thousands of people from all over the country that came to Washington, D.C., and they peacefully protested. And that was facilitated by the Metropolitan Police Department without any arrests, without any uses of force, without any incidents. In fact, I was out there and there was -- and I was out there in uniform. And there were people that were vocally exercising their First Amendment rights. And some of it was not flattering towards police officers, but that is something that we've accepted on a police department. That went off without a hitch.
NEWSHAMSaturday and Sunday night, we had people that were intent on coming to our city to destroy property and to set fires and to throw objects at our police officers. And that's not protesting. That's illegal in the District of Columbia. That will continue to be illegal in the District of Columbia. When that activity occurs in the District of Columbia, we will respond accordingly.
NEWSHAMA lot of people have raised the issue of whether or not using pepper spray or munitions in that circumstance is legal. It is, because that is not a protest. Those are not protestors. Those are people who have violated the law, and the police are allowed to protect themselves and to restore order when those things happen.
NNAMDIBoth you and Mayor Bowser describe those who clash with police as outside agitators, an unfortunate use of the term that was used largely by segregationists in the South to describe civil rights workers who were trying to register voters in the South. But at the time of those protests in June, when you said the same thing, arrest records from that time showed the vast majority of those arrested lived in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. What do your arrest records show this time?
NEWSHAMSo, when we looked at the arrests from this past weekend where we had, you now, three nights of arrests, 70 percent of those arrestees were not from the District of Columbia. We had a van that was assisting some of the violators, for lack of a better word, the folks that were, you know, intent on creating violence in our city, there was a guy driving a van through there that was providing cover people could stand behind the van and throw things at our police officers.
NEWSHAMThat van had actually been spotted on social media out at protests in Portland and in Kenosha. So, that was one indicator that we had people from the outside. And there was a lot of folks who we interviewed who indicated that many of the agitators had come from outside of Washington, D.C.
NNAMDIThe mayor criticized the U.S. attorney for D.C., Michael Sherwin, for not prosecuting people charged for alleged acts of violence during protests earlier this summer. I'll let Tom Sherwood pick it up from there.
SHERWOODWell, Chief, just this week, the week started with some bitter and hard-hitting comments about Mayor Bowser criticizing the U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin for not prosecuting the people you arrested, these violent incidents. He responded in kind in saying the police department too often was not giving enough evidence for the prosecutors to do their job.
SHERWOODThings seem to be spiraling out of control, and then, suddenly, the U.S. attorney wrote a letter yesterday thanking you for a meeting and saying that you're going to be working together, that you -- each other understands how serious the issue is. How did that meeting come about? Where was it, when was it? Was the mayor involved, or was this a one-on-one with you and the US attorney? How did that meeting come about?
NEWSHAMWe had a meeting earlier this week, and we talked about, you know, some of his allegations. And he said that he wrote that letter in a moment of anger, and that's why he wrote the correction. He was mistaken when he was saying there was not probable cause. In fact, he's agreed to move forward to ensure that the folks that were involved in the riotous behavior in our city are held accountable.
NEWSHAMSo, I think we got on the same page...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Was this a phone call -- excuse -- excuse me, Chief, I apologize. Was this a phone call or did you go over to his office on 4th Street? Did you have a sit down with him? Again, was anyone else there? Was the mayor -- because it seems to me the mayor was not part of this discussion, and it did seem to calm the waters between the police department and the U.S. attorney's office.
NEWSHAMYeah, I'm not going to go into detail, you know, with everybody who was there. I can tell you this, that it was a meeting. It was a face-to-face meeting, and we've had -- Mike and I have had meetings before. And we were able to come to a meeting of the minds that, you know, it's in the best interest of the city. You know, this is a peaceful city.
NEWSHAMYou know, like I said, when I was out there for that large demonstration on Friday, I saw a lot of people from -- who were visiting our city, but I also saw a lot of our D.C. residents. And every single person that I spoke to, they were cordial. And they don't want to see this kind of stuff happening in Washington, D.C. They don't want to see people setting fires. They don't want to see people throwing rocks at our police officers. You know, they don't want to see our buildings spray painted.
NEWSHAMAnd, you know, I look to -- you know, because of the circumstance we're in here in Washington, D.C. that our federal prosecutors assist us with that. And so we all got on the same page. I'm very, you know, optimistic moving forward that the people who were involved in that behavior are held accountable, because they need to be.
SHERWOODOkay. Chief, one of the issues in the city is people -- some worry whether or not the mayor and you are responding tough -- in a more tough way with these protestors, because the president has been complaining about the District...
NEWSHAM(overlapping) Hey, Tom, I want to stop you right there, because...
SHERWOODNo. But I -- just let me...
NEWSHAMNo, no, no. You've got to stop right there, because that's an important -- that's an important distinction. Nobody is...
SHERWOODBut let me give the context for it because it's important...
NEWSHAM...nobody is being tough -- nobody is being tough...
SHERWOOD...let me give the context for this. The reason people say this is so, because under the Home Rule Act of 1973, there is a unique position, where just on the will of the president, he can take over the police department for 48 hours, and then get Congress' permission to do it for 30 days, if necessary. And there were fears that President Trump would use his power to take over your police department. So, that's the context in which I'm asking the question, because there is some fear he still might do that.
NEWSHAMOkay. The thing that I take exception to in your question is to suggest that the police department or the mayor is being hard on protestors. We have protests in this city every single day, peaceful protests. Nobody is being hard on any protestors. People who come to the city and violate the law are going to be arrested. And that's a distinction that you all in the media really need to make, and I think some of our council needs to make that same distinction.
NEWSHAMAnd it's really -- for me it's really frustrating to hear you say that publicly, because it's just not true. And you all...
NEWSHAM...have been down there. You've seen...
NEWSHAM...the video footage, you've seen the fires. I've got multiple police officers who are injured. Nobody in Washington, D.C. wants that and then you want to go back and call these folks protestors. They're not.
SHERWOODNo, Chief, I asked the question...
NEWSHAMThe ones that are involved in that behavior are not protestors.
SHERWOOD...I asked the question, Chief, because the protestors say that's the way they are seeing it. And I understand the distinction very well between someone who is protesting and someone who is being violent or even rioting. I understand that.
NEWSHAMThen, please, please use that distinction when you speak, because it's helpful for people to know that...
SHERWOODWell, I said it earlier. I just...
NEWSHAM...the folks that are being arrested are not protestors. They're people who are breaking the law.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, some of them are rounded up, and then they're not charged, so...
NNAMDIChief Newsham, U.S. prosecutors recently acknowledged that an initiative to curb gun crimes in the District was not enforced equally across the city. Instead, it targeted Wards 5, 7 and 8, three predominantly black wards. Under this initiative, cases where felons allegedly possessed illegal firearms will be charged under federal statutes, rather than local ones. You've said that it was your understanding federal prosecutors will take all felon in-possession cases. But what's your response to this news, both about the latter part and about the targeting of certain wards?
NEWSHAMYeah, I was surprised to learn that. Gun violence -- you know, we have gun violence all throughout our city. And when I made the agreement or we decided to do this with Jessie Liu, who was the U.S. attorney at the time, it was my understanding, and I think she even said that, that her intent was to charge all of these cases. So, you know, it was a surprise to me to learn that, you know, specific districts had been singled out.
NEWSHAMAnd I have to agree with anybody who would be critical of that, because, you know, gun violence and guns and bullets, they don't have names. And it needs to be addressed unilaterally -- I mean, not unilaterally but it needs to be addressed wholly throughout the city.
NNAMDIBut how about -- why do you think those wards were targeted, and not others?
NEWSHAMI think that's a question for the U.S. attorney.
NNAMDIOkay. Here is Joe in Frederick, Maryland. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEThank you, Kojo. Chief, the First Amendment protects the right to protestors, but it also protects the press. And the MPD's use of force this past weekend left multiple press injured and also jailed with their work tools like cameras, their notes and phones being held by MPD even after their felony rioting charges were dropped. Will you give these press their property back and do anything, moving forward, to make sure these journalists can do their amendment-protected jobs without fear of police brutality?
NEWSHAMYeah, I think I would have to see -- you know, if you have particular people who are claiming to be members of the press who were arrested and had their property taken, we will ensure that they get that back. When we do need to make a mass arrest, we try to be very careful about not arresting anybody who is not involved in that event.
NEWSHAMIn fact, the folks that are involved in the arrest teams will ask if anyone's a member of the media. And if somebody identifies themselves as such, then we try to let them go on the scene. So, if that occurred, you're going to have to get me some details. And we certainly wouldn't want to hold members of the media or somebody who was trying to capture that event, you know what I mean, for the media. We wouldn't want to take them into custody or seize their property.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, we only have about a minute and a half left.
SHERWOODVery quickly, Chief, we started talking about Chief Dean and his retiring as the chief. You've been on the police force since 1989. I think you've been the police chief close to five years. What are your plan in terms to stay on the job? Do you have any idea of when you might decide to give it up? I know you have to go back before the council next spring for reconfirmation under the new law. How are you feeling about that?
NEWSHAMWell, I will say this. It's curious that the council would insert, you know, a provision like that into the Budget Support Act. It seems a little sneaky, and I think that was Charles Allen who did that. But be that as it may, I have every intention of leading this department as long as the city will want me.
NNAMDIThen, we have about a minute left, so, I will go quickly to Nichole in D.C. knowing that, Nichole, you only have about 30 seconds.
NICHOLEOkay. Hi. I'm just calling in -- I was a part of the group that was arrested in Adams Morgan on the 13th and 14th. I would like to say that there was a member of the press that identified himself as such, and he was still arrested. His phone was taken, camera was taken and is still being held as evidence, in addition to the phones of everyone else that was charged with felony rioting. So, the charges have been dropped and the district attorney, up until yesterday, said -- or the U.S. attorney, up until yesterday, said that they wouldn't press charges.
NICHOLESo, why are we still being held -- why is our stuff still being held as evidence up until now? Thank you.
NEWSHAMYou've got about five seconds to respond to that, Chief Newsham.
NEWSHAMThat's an ongoing investigation. And if she was involved in that behavior then, you know, we're going to find everyone who's accountable and ensure that charges are filed.
NNAMDIChief Newsham, thank you so much for joining us. Today's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. On Monday, we'll be taking a break for the Labor Day holiday, but we're back on Tuesday, and we look at the many ways to make your vote count. Plus, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and D.C. native Isabel Wilkerson joins us to discuss her latest book, "Caste: The Origins of our Discontents." Until then, have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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