Police Brutality Claimed

Lawsuit Says Force 'Covering Up' Abuse

March 20, 1991|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff writer

A Columbia man is suing Howard County for $1.15 million, claiming that the Police Department and other public officials have purposefullybeen "covering up" reported incidents of police brutality.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleges that Mickey C. Bowie and his brother, Carl Jonathan Bowie, were severely beaten in a January 1990 brush with county police, who in turn"approved, condoned and ratified all aspects of the police misconduct."

Carl Bowie was found hanged to death May 4 at a backstop on an Oakland Mills High School athletic field. The death caused a publicityspotlight to be shined on the Bowies and their brutality charge, with some county residents raising suspicions that police somehow were involved in the death.

State police and a Howard County grand juryinvestigated Carl Bowie's death and ruled out foul play.

The lawsuit does not address Carl Bowie's death.

Chief among the lawsuit'sclaims is that county officials have refused to take action against what the suit describes as an ongoing police brutality problem that has been fueled by poor county police training methods.

County and police officials "have known for many years that members of the Howard County police department routinely . . . cover up incidents of police brutality by placing false" criminal charges against the brutalityvictims, the suit says.

Both Bowie brothers were arrested on misdemeanor charges after they were beaten by the officers, alleges the suit, which was filed by Mickey Bowie's attorney, Jo M. Glasco of Columbia.

County police, however, maintain that the suit carries little weight in light of the fact that the three officers involved in thealleged Bowie brutality incident have been charged with excessive force by an internal affairs investigation.

"How can you say we're trying to cover up the incident when we just charged three cops with using excessive force?" asked one county official who refused to be identified.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker offered support for the department, although he did say that police brutality procedures are among the issues being studied by his special police study commission.

"My general perception of the Police Department is that it is excellent," said Ecker, who said he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit. "As for our police brutality policies, I don't know whether they are good, bad or indifferent. That's why I have a committee looking at them."

Two of the charged officers -- Victor Riemer and Ricky Johnson -- are named in the lawsuit. The two punched the Bowies several times and at one point beat them while they were handcuffed, thesuit alleges.

The incident occurred Jan. 5, 1990, at the Red RoofInn in Jessup, where police were investigating complaints of a loud party. Several Columbia teen-agers were gathered in the motel when police arrived and attempted to break up the party. The police report says underage people were drinking alcohol.

County police Chief James N. Robey refused yesterday to comment on the lawsuit. Marna L. McLendon of the county's law office said yesterday that she has receiveda copy of the suit and was reviewing it, but she also refused to comment.

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