Chair of Baltimore police oversight panel resigns after body-camera footage captures tense traffic stop

The chairman of the panel tasked with improving civilian oversight of the Baltimore Police Department has resigned from his position after an article that appeared in The Baltimore Sun showed him clashing with a police officer during a tense traffic stop last month.

Marvin McKenstry “will step down as chair of” the Community Oversight Task Force, read a statement from the group, which was posted over the weekend on its Facebook page. “We have, as a body, elected Ray Kelly to become the Chair.”

The group said McKenstry will remain on the nine-member panel.

The Community Oversight Task Force was established under the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to assess and recommend improvements to civilian oversight of the city police force. McKenstry, an associate minister* at the Victory House of Worship Church in West Baltimore, was appointed the group’s chair by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh.

James Bentley, a spokesman for Pugh, said the decision to replace McKenstry was made internally by the task force. He said he does not expect the leadership change to affect the panel’s work.

The panel is gathering input from the community before submitting its recommendations, which are due in June.

McKenstry, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment.

The leadership change came in response to a Baltimore Sun article about an incident last month in which McKenstry was stopped by police and refused at least 60 requests for his license and registration. The stop lasted more than 50 minutes and drew at least four officers to the 200 block of Aisquith St. on the afternoon of April 13, shortly after McKenstry had left a downtown hearing on the city’s consent decree with the Justice Department in U.S. District Court.

The encounter was captured on police body-camera footage obtained by The Sun through a Public Information Act request.

McKenstry told The Sun last week the traffic stop was “a misunderstanding that’s been resolved.”

In its statement, the task force called the stop a “teachable moment.”

McKenstry was fined a total of $500 for five citations. He was issued a $60 ticket for stopping in the middle of the street, a $50 ticket for refusing to give the officer his license, a $50 ticket for not having his registration, and a $290 ticket for “willfully disobeying a lawful order.” When McKenstry refused to sign those tickets, he was issued a $50 fine for that.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the union that represents Baltimore police, on Friday urged Pugh to “reconsider” McKenstry’s appointment as chair of the police oversight panel, saying he was unfit for the job.

Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the local police union, could not be reached for comment Monday.

T.J. Smith, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, struck a constructive tone in an email after the announcement.

“We are moving beyond this incident and continuing our work to strengthen partnerships and engagement with our neighborhoods,” he wrote. “We look forward to our continued relationship with COTF and we welcome Ray Kelly as the chair.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector, Luke Broadwater and Sarah Meehan contributed to this article.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/xtinatkacik

This article has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly described McKenstry's position at Victory House of Worship Church.
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