Videos of the two incidents, which occurred within a week, on June 6 and June 12, have caused an outcry and calls for investigation of the officers’ actions. The video of June 12 shows a 19-year-old Black man held face down on the boardwalk by officers. “I’m not resisting,” the teenager said before one of the officers forcefully and repeatedly kneed him in the side. The woman who took the video said she was compelled to take out her cellphone and start recording when she heard the young man say he could not breathe, reminding her of Floyd. Three other teens were arrested on charges that they tried to interfere or threaten police or were disorderly.
The video of the June 6 encounter shows an 18-year-old Black man standing with his hands up before an officer hit him in the stomach with a Taser, knocking him to the ground. “He was standing there!” one witness can be heard yelling in the video. Another said, “You all did that for no reason.”
In both instances, the initial infraction was violation of an ordinance against vaping in a restricted area, punishable by a fine up to $500. “Vaping on the Boardwalk is not a criminal offense,” Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) said in a tweet. “Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up.”
The videos posted on social media don’t show all the events. State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Worcester) said that she watched the department’s police videos of the arrests and that the individuals arrested “were informed of the smoking and vaping prohibition on the Boardwalk, and their follow-up violent actions led to their arrest.” The department, which said the incident is under review by its office of professional standards, should release tapes of the incidents, and there should be an independent review by the state’s attorney or the U.S. attorney. It is also important to determine why there seemed to be little or no attempt by the officers to de-escalate the situations. Teens can be unruly and disrespectful, but would the response by police have been different if the teens had been White and not Black? Instead of using force and a Taser, would they have tried a little common sense?
“How about, ‘C’mon, guys, you can’t do that here. Give us all a break, including yourselves, and do that somewhere else, will you,’ ” one person suggested in an online message to The Post. “These kids were vaping out of bounds, not committing armed robbery.”