Common Sense Policing CARROLL COUNTY

Most Carroll County residents believe that only police in Baltimore are rude and insensitive to citizens, in part due to the Wenda Bollinger incident earlier this year. But the story of Ralph A. Beaver shows that small town law enforcers can be just as callous as those in the big city.

Most people remember that Ms. Bollinger, a school bus driver, was arrested and jailed last spring after she refused to move a bus that was partially blocking a street next to the Maryland Science Center. The overzealous police response caused such a ruckus that Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke eventually visited the Carroll school which had sent the science center field trip to apologize.


Now apologies would seem in order from a Westminster policeman, who chased Mr. Beaver several blocks, threw the 70-year-old man against a wall and arrested him. His crime? Badgering the officer about a motorist who had driven the wrong way down a one-way alley.

Mr. Beaver got into trouble when he yelled at Officer Mark A. Shobert to stop a speeding car going the wrong way down Winter Street. Officer Shobert was preoccupied at the time, trying to help someone get keys out of a locked car. Mr. Beaver continued to yell to get the officer's attention.


Officer Shobert responded by saying he didn't see anyone breaking the law and would attend to Mr. Beaver's complaint as soon as he unlocked the car. Mr. Beaver was not mollified and resumed hollering. Officer Shobert warned Mr. Beaver that he would be arrested if he did not quiet down. Mr. Beaver walked away but continued yelling.

The officer, possibly embarrassed, told Mr. Beaver he was under arrest. Hearing that, the septuagenarian began running. Officer Shobert caught up to him. Mr. Beaver refused to submit to arrest and the officer used considerable force to subdue him.

Certainly Westminster's tranquillity was temporarily disturbed, but Mr. Beaver did not pose a threat to the city's residents. Officer Shobert might have delivered a stern lecture on appropriate public behavior and left it at that.

Police have to deal with many unpleasant people, but excessive yelling in the middle of the day doesn't reach the threshold of arrest. When officers fail to use common sense, they make their jobs more difficult and reduce the respect they deserve.