NAACP protests to police

February 22, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

The county NAACP and the parents of seven black Patuxent Valley Middle School students are demanding to know why two white county police officers detained the boys for about two hours Feb. 4 without notifying parents and then released them after dark.

Parents say the students, 11 to 13 years old, were walking on Vollmerhausen Road from an after-school basketball game when a girl they knew offered and gave $3 to one of the boys. The girl later apparently called 911 and reported that she had been robbed of $4.

According to police, the two officers responded about 4:50 p.m. Feb. 4 to a report of an alleged robbery of a 14-year-old girl in the 8100 block of Sheffield Court in the Guilford-Savage area, just a few blocks from the school. Two of the seven boys they stopped were charged with theft at the scene and released to their parents, said Sgt. Steven E. Keller, a police department spokesman.

Neither the girl, who was not identified by police, nor her parents could be reached for comment yesterday.

"I want to talk to the chief and have him explain the actions of his officers," said Keith Scarborough, whose 13-year-old son, Gregory, was detained. "My children are fifth-generation blacks in the Guilford community. I think it's ridiculous that they have to tiptoe around their community."

Mr. Scarborough attended a press conference at county police headquarters arranged yesterday by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

After becoming concerned when his son didn't get home on time Feb. 4, he and his other son, Nicholas, 11, went looking for Gregory about 6 p.m., Mr. Scarborough said. They found him walking to their Mission Road home.

Mr. Scarborough said he went to the scene and approached a female officer who had detained the boys. Mr. Scarborough said that when he asked the officer if anyone was apprehended, she pointed out his son Nicholas, sitting in his father's car, as the thief.

"I said, 'I guess we all look alike,' " Mr. Scarborough said. "She said, 'Sir, This is not a racial issue.' "

"I was mad, because I haven't really done anything," said Gregory, who said he was detained for a couple of hours and searched even though the girl, who also is a student at Patuxent Valley Middle School, told police he wasn't involved. "They just kept me," he said yesterday. He said he wasn't allowed to call his parents while detained on Sheffield Court.

Police Chief James N. Robey was out of town yesterday, but his second-in-command, Maj. Mark L. Paterni, said the supervisors hTC of the officers are reviewing the police reports and procedures.

"At this point I have no knowledge of inappropriate actions," Major Paterni said.

Because no formal complaint has been filed by the NAACP or parents, the department's Internal Affairs unit has not investigated the detentions.

"We are always willing to listen to concerns and questions about our procedures," Major Paterni said.

The parent and guardian of the two boys, ages 11 and 13, who were charged, said, "I want some type of satisfaction from Howard County police."

"An apology is a start. They can't continue to harass black males," she said yesterday as she stood in the rain outside county police headquarters in Ellicott City.

County police refused to release a police report of the incident because it contains the names of juveniles, but Sergeant Keller said the report shows that officers contacted three of the boys' parents later on the night of Feb. 4. The parents of two others were contacted by police on Feb. 11, he said.

Police refused to give the names of the two officers involved in the incident.

Sergeant Keller said that if an officer gets permission from a supervisor, he can charge juveniles at the scene and detain them, but once the investigation is over, the officer is supposed to contact the parents.

"What I observe here is that seven black boys were dealt with by the police, and their parents didn't know where they were. It was after dark," said Rev. Bowyer Freeman, president of the county NAACP chapter. "We're concerned about this, particularly at a time when there is a strong criminalization of African-American males."

A meeting of the parents with Chief Robey is planned for March 7.

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