By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 20, 2008
A Prince George's County police lieutenant charged four times this year with driving under the influence passed out behind the wheel of a running police cruiser in one incident, had to be Tasered and pepper-sprayed in another and was at fault in a hit-and-run in a third, Laurel Police said yesterday.
In February, an officer found Lt. Kenneth W. Parrish, 44, asleep in the cruiser, its emergency lights on, in front of Laurel High School shortly after noon on a school day, a spokesman for the Laurel police said. Parrish's cruiser was in the road, running and in drive, his foot resting on the brake pedal and his body slumped over the steering wheel, spokesman Jimmy Collins said.
Parrish, a 20-year veteran who was off-duty at the time, was charged and released to the county police. He was suspended that day.
"It doesn't appear that he's going to be reinstated, obviously," said Maj. Andy Ellis, a county police spokesman.
Also yesterday, Laurel police and county prosecutors clashed over why the first two drunken-driving charges against Parrish were dropped, each agency blaming the other. Charges in the other two incidents -- one in September in Laurel and the other last week in Montgomery County -- are pending.
The February case was dropped when the arresting officer did not attend a court hearing. Collins had previously said the officer did not know about the hearing until after it had happened, but yesterday he said that supervisors told prosecutors on the morning of the hearing that the officer had a conflict and could not attend. The officer, Mark Schmidt, was out of town at motorcycle training at the time, Collins said.
State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D) said that his office has no record of a notification from the Laurel department and that his prosecutor didn't know Schmidt was not able to attend.
The drunken-driving charge from the second incident, in July, was dropped as part of a plea agreement. Ivey said that because Parrish had refused breath and field sobriety tests, the DUI allegation by Laurel police could not be proved.
Collins said he believed that the charges filed by Laurel police were appropriate.
Caroline Cash, executive director of MADD Maryland, declined to comment on the Parrish situation but said the state has long failed to keep drunk drivers from becoming repeat offenders. She cited a recent MADD study that found that Maryland has nearly 4,000 people who have been convicted at least five times.
"There's a problem with the system," she said, "and we would at least certainly expect law enforcement and state's attorneys to convict drunk drivers regardless of their law enforcement affiliation."
Parrish is free on bond. Efforts to reach him in recent days have been unsuccessful.
In the July incident, Parrish drove through a roadblock where Laurel police were investigating a fatal accident and argued with officers who tried to place him under arrest, Laurel police said.
"I'm a cop, and you're not locking me up!" he allegedly yelled, refusing at first to get out of his sport-utility vehicle.
Once outside the SUV, Parrish clenched his fists and took an "aggressive stance," Collins said. Parrish had to be Tasered, pepper-sprayed and wrestled to the ground before police could handcuff him, he said.
In that case, Parrish pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license. He was sentenced to one year of supervised probation, fined $200 and ordered to complete an alcohol program, Ivey said.
Court records show that seven charges, including driving under the influence, reckless driving, negligent driving and willfully disobeying a police officer, were dropped. Ivey said he could resurrect those charges if Parrish is convicted in either of the more recent cases.
In September, Parrish was again in the SUV when he sideswiped an oncoming sedan with an elderly couple inside, according to a police report. No one was injured.
Parrish continued to drive the remaining few blocks to his residence in Laurel, where police found his SUV in the driveway and Parrish inside the home, stumbling and with bloodshot, watery eyes and the strong smell of alcohol on his breath, according to the report.
In the most recent incident, Parrish was arrested Dec. 12 when Montgomery police found him asleep behind the wheel of his SUV near a gas pump in Silver Spring, again with the car in drive and his foot on the brake, according to a charging document.
In all three Laurel cases, Parrish refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, records show. In Montgomery, a breath test showed that Parrish had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. He was unable to stand on his own and admitted to drinking a half-pint of vodka that morning, according to a police charging document.