Demonstrators protest alleged police brutality

October 12, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

About 60 children and adults demonstrated in front of the Anne Arundel County police headquarters in Millersville yesterday evening, protesting alleged police misconduct during an incident at a Crofton skating rink on Sept. 30.

Police are conducting an internal investigation of the complaints of police brutality and the use of racial slurs and profanity during the incident at Skate City in which seven people were arrested.

Lt. Ronald Bledsoe, a shift commander at the Western District, is heading the investigation.

Sgt. Bob Johnson, who oversees the department's public information office, said it will probably be "some time" before the investigation is complete.

Standing before reporters and cameras in the chilly evening, the protesters shouted, "Fired up, ain't going to take it no more," and held signs that read "I've been violated" and "We went to skate. We got beat."

During the incident, witnesses said, police beat, cursed at and shouted racial slurs at some of the 250 youths at the skating rink while trying to disperse the crowd.

Some of the youths claimed to have been injured, including one young woman who was using crutches because of a severely sprained knee.

She said an officer hit her with a billy club while she was trying to help a friend.

At least 23 county officers and four state troopers responded to the call that came near midnight, said Officer Randy Bell, county police spokesman.

Yesterday evening, a protesters' delegation of about six youths and six adults, including Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden, met for more than 90 minutes with Deputy Chief Edgar Koch, Sergeant Johnson, who oversees the public information office, and another officer from the intelligence department.

After the meeting, Mr. Snowden announced that police were "looking at dropping the charges" against those arrested, but Officer Bell, who was not at the meeting, said he had not heard anything about that.

Mr. Snowden gave police a list of more than 50 people who said they were injured during the incident, or witnessed excessive force or the officers' use of racial slurs and profanity.

Sergeant Johnson said eight people from the original list of about 15 have been interviewed by police.

Mr. Snowden also said police will consider allowing witnesses to identify the officers involved in the incident from a smaller pool of photographs than is normally provided.

Witnesses are usually asked to pick out officers from a photo album of all 550 county officers.

Sergeant Johnson said witnesses in this case may be given "50 or more" photographs to look at, in an effort to identify some of the 23 officers who were at the scene of the incident.

"There is nothing that prohibits us from doing that," he said.

Many of the youths, in the presence of American Civil Liberties Union representatives, began giving statements and affidavits to police last weekend.

ACLU lawyer Laura Kessler said her organization is assisting police in their investigation while conducting its own investigation of the incident.

The ACLU will represent those who claimed to be victims of police brutality and Alan H. Legum, an Annapolis attorney, will represent the seven people arrested.

"From the reports we've gotten, it appears there were a number of civil rights violations. One woman said she had her car searched and she did not give her consent. We have reports of children being told to get on their hands and knees," Ms. Kessler said.

She added that whether a lawsuit would be filed "depends on the response we get from the police and from the state's attorney's office."

In a meeting Oct. 4, parents and the youths agreed they wanted all charges dropped against those who were arrested and public apologies from the Police Department and the manager of the skating rink.

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