Havre de Grace officers faulted in driver's arrest

January 01, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

An Aberdeen man has alleged in a letter to The Sun that Havre de Grace officers used "cowboy police tactics" in arresting his brother Dec. 16 after stopping the man's car for a burned-out headlight.

Ron Jones, of the 600 block of Plater St., said the officer who stopped his brother, Elwood Thomas Jones Jr., should have given him "a warning and a 10-day notice to have the problem fixed."

Mr. Jones said his brother, who lives in the 700 block of S. Atwood Road in Bel Air, was arrested after the officer did a license check. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's computers incorrectly showed that Elwood Jones had not paid a traffic fine that was due in May, Ron Jones said.

He said in his letter and in a telephone interview that the arresting officer handcuffed his brother, who was then held for three hours in the Aberdeen city jail before he was taken, again in handcuffs, to an appearance before a District Court commissioner in Bel Air.

Court records show that Elwood Jones was released on his own recognizance. His brother said he was asked to return with the MVA receipt to prove that he had paid the fine.

Meanwhile, according to Ron Jones, Havre de Grace officers had his brother's car towed to a nearby garage and his brother had to pay a $65 towing and storage fee to get it back.

"That's a strange and interesting service the Havre de Grace police provide citizens," Ron Jones said.

Lt. John Van Gilder of the Havre de Grace Police Department said a police officer has the discretion to write a ticket or issue a repair order warning in most cases involving faulty equipment.

"In this case, the license check came back showing Mr. [Elwood] Jones was driving on a suspended license," the lieutenant said. "If the officer has any suspicion that the driver may not honor the citation or has a serious violation outstanding, he should make an arrest."

Lieutenant Van Gilder said the traffic stop occurred at 4:45 a.m., so the three-hour delay in taking Elwood Jones to see the District Court commissioner "really was fairly short, as these things go."

According to records, Elwood Jones' problems with the MVA dated to May 19 when he was charged with operating a vehicle without proper registration plates or stickers and with driving an unregistered vehicle.

MVA records indicate that a suspension letter was mailed to Elwood Jones on July 18 because the fine had not been paid in District Court.

The MVA suspended his driver's license Aug. 9 for failing to pay the fine and notified him of the suspension by mail.

The MVA also notified him in September that his license had been revoked, records show.

Elwood Jones' driver's license expired and was deleted from MVA records Nov. 24, about three weeks before the latest incident, the agency's records show.

Lieutenant Van Gilder said the Havre de Grace arresting officer gave Elwood Jones the option of having someone come for his car rather than having it towed when he was arrested Dec. 16.

The Havre de Grace Police Department does not set towing charges and gets nothing in return for having a car impounded, the lieutenant said.

Elwood Jones did not respond to several requests for comment on his arrest.

Ron Jones said he was trying to arrange to get his brother's traffic fine paid so he could get his driver's license back.

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