Local Lawmen and Brutality


Is it merely coincidence that police brutality complaints are on NTC the rise in some counties surrounding Baltimore and the District of Columbia at a time when the national spotlight is trained on police misdeeds in Los Angeles?

Allegations of excessive force against local departments are cropping up with troubling regularity. Just last week, an Odenton black man filed a brutality complaint against Anne Arundel County police, charging that a bungled late night raid staged by more than a dozen white police officers left him with a dislocated shoulder. The officers were looking for a robbery suspect who was already in police custody. Allegations of excessive force in Anne Arundel have tripled since 1986.

Howard County's internal affairs department has charged three officers with using excessive force in arresting three Jessup men. The department is still investigating incidents in which two Laurel families claimed they had been terrorized by masked officers in a futile, early-morning drug search.

The county, meanwhile, is being sued by a Columbia man who alleges that brutality complaints in Howard are routinely covered up. Undue force complaints in Howard rose from 11 in 1988 to 16 last year. A Montgomery County police officer is under suspension after pleading guilty to pistol-whipping a Hispanic man. The Baltimore City police department reportedly is investigating allegations that an NAACP official suffered a broken wrist in a scuffle with police last fall.

By themselves, these incidents don't make a compelling case for rampant abuse by police. Indeed, the vast majority of complaints are found to be without merit. The fact that such complaints are on the rise, however, does suggest a disturbing pattern that should be checked.

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