Baltimore Police union president calls on community oversight panel member to resign

The president of the Baltimore police union on Wednesday called for the resignation of a member of a panel tasked with reviewing civilian oversight of the police department.

At a news conference, Gene Ryan, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said Marvin McKenstry, the previous chair of the Civilian Oversight Task Force, has shown “animosity towards law enforcement,” after a video surfaced of a traffic stop of McKenstry.

McKenstry resigned from the leadership position late last week after The Baltimore Sun published police body-camera video showing him clashing with a sergeant during a traffic stop last month.

Ryan, in his remarks, said McKenstry’s actions in the video and past history of traffic violations “leads us to question his relationship with authority and lawfulness; a trait that we believe might taint his ability to participate in a healthy discussion regarding community and police interaction.”

The panel’s new chair Ray Kelly, who was recently elected by colleagues, said he had accepted the position on the condition that his predecessor be allowed to remain on the board.

Kelly, a well-known community advocate with the No Boundaries Coalition of Central West Baltimore, wrote that McKenstry’s “hard work and dedication” on the panel over the past year “can not be diminished by one indiscretion or a ‘bad day.’”

The union has been in discussion with Mayor Catherine Pugh, Ryan said. The union has asked her to “reconsider” her appointment of McKenstry to the oversight panel. Pugh said the entire incident could have been avoided.

“All citizens, regardless of rank, office or status have an obligation to cooperate with our law enforcement officers. This was an unfortunate occurrence that has apparently been resolved but also could easily have been avoided,” Pugh said in a previous statement.

On Wednesday, she told media that she is considering removing McKenstry from the task force.

The stop on April 13 was by Sgt. Terrence McGowan.

McGowan asked McKenstry for his license and registration 60 times during the traffic stop before McKenstry gave him his license and told him he didn’t have his registration. McKenstry had sought to reach a top police commander during the stop. And he told McGowan he would have to arrest him before he complied with what he considered an “unlawful” stop.

McGowan refused to arrest him, but issued him five tickets totaling $500 in fines.

McKenstry, an associate minister at a local church and an employee of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Ryan said McKenstry should be removed from the panel to ensure officers are treated fairly.

McKenstry, he said, “has become the self-appointed poster child for all that is wrong with allowing civilians to determine the fate of police officers.”

He also dismissed claims that McKenstry would be treated differently if he had been white.

Ryan said anyone who would have “reacted with such hostility” to the officer’s commands would have received the same reaction or possibly been arrested and charged.

In his letter, Kelly spoke of the panel’s broader mission, and referenced the 2016 Justice Department report that found a history of discriminatory and unconstitutional police practices in the city — particularly in predominantly black neighborhoods, and including during traffic stops.

“What we must remember is this is the reason this task force exists,” Kelly wrote. “We must not forget the history of negative encounters between the BPD and Black men in Baltimore City outlined in the DOJ’s findings that preempted the Consent Decree.”

The panel has previously said it envisions a vastly expanded role for civilians in overseeing the city police force, including in handling officer misconduct allegations and shaping policy and budget. It is hosting community forums to gather additional input from residents before submitting its final recommendations to the city in June.

Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector and Ian Duncan contributed to this story.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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