An internal Howard County police investigation into complaints by two Laurel families that they were terrorized during an early-morning raid last fall has cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, the county police chief said yesterday.
Chief James N. Robey said the internal investigation found the officers broke no department rules.
But Chief Robey said he was issuing tighter guidelines on raids based on concerns raised by the two families. The families protested their treatment by police and questioned why they were raided. No drugs or contraband were found.
"The changes we have made in our policy we believe are among the most stringent used by police departments nationally," said Chief Robey. However, he was unable to say whether the new guidelines would have made any difference in how the raids were conducted, except for tighter supervisory review. Police armed with search warrants raided the separate residences of Juanita Thompson and Martin Joseph Cummings Jr. in the 9400 block of All Saints Road in the Canterbury Riding section of North Laurel Oct. 19.
Ms. Thompson said yesterday that it was "very contradictory that the police are saying they did nothing wrong by coming into the homes, but they are going to institute new procedures. To me, it seems like an admission of fault for coming into my home the way they did." Ms. Thompson said she and three teen-aged children were kept in handcuffs for 2 1/2 hours while police searched her home.
"The impact of the whole ordeal is not something we have gotten over. We are still feeling the effects, and it will take a lot of time for my family to recover from the ordeal," she said.
Mr. Cummings could not be reached for comment yesterday. He had filed a complaint of brutality, saying an officer kicked open the door to his bedroom and broke his wrist while wrestling with him. The police said the investigation showed that Mr. Cummings' wrist was bruised while he was struggling with the handcuffs.
Chief Robey said there was no basis for the families' complaints of harassment.
Under the new guidelines, the chief said he is requiring police supervisors to approve all search warrants.
Handcuffing persons during a raid is sometimes necessary to prevent them from destroying evidence or gaining access to a weapon, the chief said.
But the revised policy cautions officers about handcuffing children and older people when it is not in the best interest of the investigation, he said.