Prodded by allegations that one of its officials was beaten by city police, the NAACP has renewed its call for a civilian board to review complaints of police brutality in Baltimore.
Raymond Henson, a member of the NAACP's city branch, said he suffered a broken wrist in an incident that occurred at 2 a.m. on Sept. 29. Henson said was handcuffed and beaten with night sticks after he tried to stop an officer who was beating another man.
Henson said that he and the other man, both of whom are black, were beaten by white officers in unprovoked attacks. After the beating, Henson was taken into custody, held for three hours, and released without being charged.
Henson, 40, a former city policeman, heads the NAACP committee that investigates police brutality and discrimination complaints in Baltimore.
George N. Buntin, the executive director of the city branch of the National Association of Colored People, said the case demonstrates the need for an "impartial" body to investigate police brutality complaints.
City police spokesman Dennis Hill said Henson's allegations are being investigated by the department's Internal Investigation Unit. But Hill declined to comment until the investigation has been completed.
Henson said the incident began as he and a friend were driving to the Inner Harbor. While stopped at a red light at East Baltimore Street and Guilford Avenue, Henson said, he watched an officer approach a man who was walking with a woman.
Henson said the officer suddenly pushed the man into the street and began striking him. When the officer and the man fell on Henson's car, he got out and identified himself as an NAACP official. "When I said NAACP, that's when they [the police] grabbed me," he said. "They hit me in the head with their nightsticks."
Police reports give a different account of the incident.
The reports identify the man and woman as George R. Williams, 37, and his wife, Sandra K. Williams, 24. Police said the melee began after Officer Arnold Houghton ordered George Williams to leave the area after observing him with a known drug dealer on "the Block."
The report said George Williams disobeyed the officer and created "a large disturbance" which attracted 100 people. It required six police officers to subdue Williams and five officers to subdue his wife, police said.
Henson and another bystander, David Wayne Street, 25, "were arrested as a result of failing to obey and hindering." Henson was "involuntary detained," by police but he was not charged, the report said.
Agent Arlene Jenkins said George Williams was charged with disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and resisting arrest. His wife was charged with failure to obey, hindering and resisting arrest.
David Street was charged with failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and being intoxicated, Jenkins said.
Citing an upsurge in brutality complaints reported to it, the NAACP last year urged Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to create a civilian review board complete with its own attorney and staff investigators.
The city rejected the proposal. "Our research has shown that efforts in other jurisdictions to establish boards with independent investigative powers have not been successful," the city said in response.