Phone cameras have been game-changers in prompting answers from law enforcement agencies that, in some instances, might previously have shrugged off accounts of police abuse. In this instance, video of the incident
, which took place July 3 after an alleged drug sting by plainclothes police, quickly went viral and authorities identified the officer, Kevin Moris. In addition to being charged with second-degree assault and misconduct, Mr. Moris was suspended and placed on administrative leave.
The moves were announced by Montgomery’s top prosecutor, John McCarthy, and its acting police chief, Marcus Jones. Neither pulled any punches in characterizing the officer’s conduct, and neither sought to justify the officer’s actions.
Their candor and quick response should not be taken for granted. Across the country, and locally, there have been incidents of authorities failing to respond quickly or firmly to apparent police misconduct, even when video evidence is widely available.
The most glaring recent example involves the death of a young Fairfax County accountant, Bijan Ghaisar, shot to death by U.S. Park Police in late 2017
after a fender bender on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Northern Virginia. Ghaisar, who was unarmed, twice drove away from officers when they pulled him over and approached his car with guns drawn; when he seemed about to drive away a third time, the officers opened fire.
That matter has been in the hands of the FBI and federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for more than a year and a half. To date, their investigation has been notable for its lack of accountability and transparency — information has been withheld from Ghaisar’s family, the public and members of Congress. An apparently harmless man was shot to death by uniformed officers, and the only official response has been silence.
The Montgomery County incident should provide a lift for a proposal by County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) to establish a civilian board to offer advice to police on use of force, discipline and dealing with residents with mental-health issues. The sluggish inquiry into Ghaisar’s death should also prompt reforms, but, so far, official efforts to get answers — even stern letters from senators and congressmen — have been met with official indifference.