Officers charged with improper performance at rink

April 07, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County police have charged two officers with improper performance of duty in connection with a Sept. 30 incident that started when police were called to control a crowd of about 300 youths at a Crofton skating rink.

The charges came after a long internal investigation. Police announced the findings yesterday evening in Annapolis to a group of six people.

P. Thomas Shanahan, acting deputy police chief, said one of the officers used profanity and that the other neglected to file a report on the incident after he arrested a young woman and released her later without filing any charges.

The investigation also found that it was inappropriate for another officer, who moonlights at the skating rink, to respond to the incident. No charges were filed against that officer.

"We made some mistakes," Chief Shanahan said. "The police did not handle this incident as well as we could have."

The crowd was at the rink to raise money for a skiing trip to Quebec for a group of local youths.

On the night the incident occurred, the manager of Skateland II called police to the scene and complained that the youths, who were outside waiting to enter the rink, were " 'breaking up the place. They're breaking glass,' " said Lt. James R. Thomas, who led the internal investigation.

Lieutenant Thomas said there was no broken glass evident. But police did arrest four adults and three youths on disorderly conduct and other charges.

The youths and adults at the rink complained that police used profanity, racial slurs and excessive force while trying to disperse the crowd. Some youths said police dogs were let loose on the crowd and that someone fired a gun inside the skating rink lobby.

Police said yesterday that they had no evidence that racial slurs were uttered and that the other allegations were untrue.

"No weapons were discharged, no canines turned loose, no one hit with a nightstick," Lieutenant Thomas said. "There was no evidence of that."

He also said that people who were at the rink did not cooperate with investigators.

"Every step of the way, we were sort of thwarted in this investigation by people who would not cooperate," Lieutenant Thomas said.

Phyllis Adams, who was responsible for coordinating the fund-raising event, said the youths do not trust the police because the officer who initially led the investigation, Lt. Ronald Bledsoe, was also at the rink the night of the incident.

Lieutenant Thomas took over the investigation in October when police discovered that fact.

"When [the children] found out that the officer who was in charge of [the responding officers] was the same officer in charge of the investigation, they didn't feel they had anyone they could trust," Ms. Adams said. "They felt nothing was going to come of it, and they were really afraid to speak. They lost faith."

Chief Shanahan said the officers charged in the incident will be disciplined administratively, although they have the option to appear before a trial board.

Meanwhile, Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden called for improved police-community relations.

"I still think that there is strong feeling in the African-American community that there was more than inappropriate language used," he said. "I think there's a need, in light of this incident, to increase community relations."

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