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Montgomery County police investigate after video surfaces of white officer using n-word

Montgomery County police are investigating an incident involving a white officer who used the n-word May 9 while detaining a group of young men. (Video: Montgomery County Police)

Montgomery County police on Thursday released body-camera footage from a white officer who appeared on an earlier social media video using the n-word during an encounter with a group of young men being questioned in Silver Spring, saying the incident was “disturbing” and remains under investigation.

During the roughly 12-minute body-cam video, which begins with the unidentified officer driving to the scene — a McDonald’s parking lot in the White Oak section of Silver Spring around 10:30 a.m. Thursday — the officer can be heard laughing and attempting to make light banter with the group of young African American men, who were lined up along the outside of the restaurant.

Toward the end of the video, the officer says, “Y’all n-----s been tryin’ to something.” Someone on the video can be heard calling her a “racist,” and the officer indicates she was repeating something a person in the group had told her.

“Nope, that’s a quote, those were your words,” she said.

Police issued a statement late Thursday saying, “We sincerely regret the disturbing nature of this video,” and added that what was said goes against the department’s “extensive training curriculum,” which includes measures against implicit bias.

Montgomery County police are investigating “all the facts and circumstances of this encounter,” said Officer Rick Goodale, a police spokesman.

View the police statement and video release here

The incident began as officers were investigating a possible trespassing at the McDonald’s, Goodale said. Police are trying to determine whether citations or charges were issued and the ages of those stopped, and whether any are juveniles. The exchange on the video occurred between officers and four people, police said in the release of the body-cam video.

The department also said it was reaching out to the “persons involved in the incident.”

Acting police chief Russ Hamill, in an email to department employees late Thursday, expressed deep concern and said “the language was inappropriate by any measure.” He said “such language, whether one is mimicking another person’s language, or using it on their own, simply has no place here.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) issued a statement Thursday saying that he had reviewed the video and that the incident “violates the standards which we expect our officers to uphold.”

“There are no circumstances that justify what the officer said,” Elrich said in the statement. “Every time something like this happens it hurts the reputation of all officers; and it works against efforts to build trust in the community.” He said he had spoken to Hamill, adding that Hamill “recognizes the seriousness of this.”

Council member Craig Rice (D-District 2) said that after he learned of the video he called Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Marcus Jones, who he said described the video.

Rice said he was told the officer was repeating the word after the group of people who were stopped had used it first.

Rice said the word should never have been used, “regardless of what went down. . . . It’s not appropriate for anyone in our workforce.

Rice said he wanted to see a full police investigation and, if necessary, “appropriate disciplinary action,” which he said might include racial sensitivity training.

Council member Will Jawando (D-At Large) said he also called Jones seeking more information and to ask for an investigation.

“We need to examine what went wrong,” Jawando said. “Obviously using that language is never acceptable and there needs to be appropriate consequences for that.”

Jawando said he wanted the investigation to go further, examining why the men were stopped in the first place. Jawando’s bill requiring outside investigations of ­police-involved deaths in the county — an effort to enhance trust between the community and the police department — passed the council this week.

“I think there’s a larger issue . . . who and why and how we’re stopping and detaining individuals,” he said. “When you do that, it can lead to disproportionate arrests and use of force, which is not a good thing. It doesn’t build trust in the community.”

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