The Aug. 17 Metro story "Lawsuit Targets Officers" was about a suit filed in U.S. District Court by Merlin "Skippy" Williams, who alleges brutality during his arrest by the Montgomery County Police on July 30, 1996. Mr. Williams, who is black, alleges racism.
The Post's readers may not know that he also alleged that the police stole some of his property. As a result, a major internal investigation was conducted that took one year to complete. Its lead investigator -- who, I might add, was black -- found that no brutality occurred and that racism was not a factor. An overlapping, yet equally lengthy, criminal investigation into the allegation of theft was conducted. That investigation also concluded that the charge was unfounded.
For one year, the officers lived with this cloud over their heads. I know. I was the supervisor on the scene.
The officers that night were dealing with a man admittedly high on cocaine who was holding his wife by the throat with one arm and keeping his other hand behind his back while standing on the front lawn of his home at the dead-end of the 1100 block of Good Hope Drive, a neighborhood with a history of not welcoming the police with open arms. The officers were surrounded by a large, unruly and threatening crowd. No one in the crowd knew that Mr. Williams's 9-year-old son had called us to the house because Mr. Williams was hurting his mother. My officers did an exemplary job.
The first officer on the scene was black, as were the fifth and sixth officers to arrive. They came from the Wheaton/Glenmont District Station. Many more also arrived from other police districts once word of the unruly crowd was broadcast. Mr. Williams refused to obey our verbal commands to show us his other hand and to release his wife. Pepper spray was used. It was a fitting and proper choice of force.
Despite that, Mr. Williams still resisted, and the crowd became even more ugly. We operated as a team to resolve the incident, arrest the guilty party and restore order. We, too, were injured and inhaled the pepper spray. In response, Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan and his then-chief of police, Carol Mehrling, visited Mr. Williams in the hospital. Mr. Duncan also visited Mr. Williams's family at their home.
I was, and remain, proud of the officers on the scene that night. Most were young and scared. They had never faced a situation like that. They did what they had to do correctly, professionally and without hesitation. Even so, after the Williams family went to the media, Mr. Duncan and his police chief did only the politically correct things, not the morally correct ones. It took me six months of complaining before Chief Mehrling showed up to check on the welfare of my officers. We still are waiting for Mr. Duncan to arrive.
JOSEPH R. ANASTASI
Montgomery County Police Department