Schmoke raises concerns about state senator's arrest

Conway says officer used excessive force

February 12, 1999|By Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields | Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The arrest Tuesday of a state senator who allegedly refused an officer's order to move back from an accident scene has raised concerns at Baltimore City Hall about overzealous police and their treatment of citizens.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, speaking yesterday at his weekly news conference, would not say whether he believed Sen. Joan Carter Conway should have been arrested, but he said he is concerned about her treatment after she was handcuffed.

"I do not believe our Police Department or police officers in general are out of control," the mayor said. "But I do believe we have some problems with a small number of officers that needs to be addressed."

Schmoke, who attended a community meeting in Highlandtown honoring an officer Wednesday night, said he is "hearing more and more stories about police officers treating people with disrespect."

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said officers and firefighters back up the version of events from the officer -- that Conway would not move away from paramedics as they helped the child.

"Our goal is to treat everyone fairly and equitable, while trying to do a very difficult job," he said. "People do not like to be arrested, no matter how well they are treated. You can do it with a smile or a frown. Either way, they are not going to be happy."

Conway was arrested outside her tax office in the 2300 block of E. Monument St. shortly after a 6-year-old girl had been hit by a car. She was charged with hindering a law enforcement officer.

Police, concerned that a growing crowd, estimated at 200, was hampering paramedics, ordered people to move away from the scene.

Fire Department spokesman Michael Maybin said the crowd pressed so close that paramedics did not have enough room to put a cervical collar on the injured child's neck.

Officer Troy Dezwart said in his report that Conway repeatedly declined to move and was arrested. After she was handcuffed, the officer said, she tried to break away and was forcibly placed on a curb.

Conway, a Northeast Baltimore Democrat and possible mayoral candidate, said she only wanted to make sure the young victim's family had been notified. She used the Senate floor in Annapolis to defend herself Wednesday and complained that the officer used excessive force to arrest her.

Several senators and delegates rushed to her support and said police would have handled the incident differently had it occurred in an upscale neighborhood, instead of impoverished East Baltimore.

Schmoke said yesterday that he agreed. "We have to convey to our citizens that everybody, regardless of race or economic class, are going to treated the same way."

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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