Ocean City was thrust into the national spotlight this week, thanks to about 30 seconds of cell phone video capturing a police officer repeatedly knee thrusting an individual on the Boardwalk and another officer in a separate incident using a taser on a man with his hands up. After a week of irresponsible and sensational reporting from national and regional media outlets, it’s time to be blunt.
A majority of the people who come to Ocean City even in June come with the best intentions. There is a small minority who are here to cause trouble. It’s this group which also increasingly comes armed and dangerous. The number of weapons seized arrests in May increased by more than 400%, from six in 2020 to 31 this May. The trend is continuing in June with at least 24 weapons arrests in the first two weeks of June. It’s understandable for police to be on guard when individuals do not immediately comply. While the video snippet visuals are disturbing, the full videos show more context and justify the police’s actions. Police officers were right to react with force amid threats on their safety.
What is not understandable is grandstanding and trying to exploit situations to promote an agenda as happened at a press conference Wednesday in Annapolis when Ocean City got trashed. The Caucus of African American Leaders including members of the local and state NAACP chapters called for the immediate suspension of all Ocean City police officers involved in the two situations. An expedited investigation into the incidents was sought. While the probe is taking place, the Black leaders called for a boycott of Ocean City and its businesses. The press conference eventually evolved into individuals standing up trying to make the news with sensational comments. One individual even said, “Ocean City has a long history of segregation and racism …” before saying some of those people are still in positions of power. Another speaker reported there is a clear “disconnect” between business people and the police in Ocean City. He then rambled on how businesses in Ocean City made “zero money last year” and the last thing businesses want is for people to boycott the town. These comments are false.
I’m siding with the blue. I give the police the benefit of the doubt their actions – while difficult to watch – were required to quell a potentially dangerous situation. It’s understandable police officers will be particularly on edge after last June’s dangerous antics and the fact individuals in the senior week age range are being found armed and dangerous at an alarming rate.
Senator Mary Beth Carozza was a voice of reason this week in regard to the Ocean City turmoil. At least seven national television news outlets picked up on the story and some officials took their opportunity at glory to provide harsh comments about today’s police officers.
It’s disappointing to see legislators make absurd comments about situations they know little about. It was clearly the case when the two top-ranking legislators in the House and Senate went on the record in The Baltimore Sun with kneejerk reactions. At least the governor, when asked by a reporter about the Ocean City incidents during a press conference, said he would withhold specific comments until a full probe is completed.
Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones went the opposite route, saying, “The video from this weekend in Ocean City is deeply disturbing. Vaping on the Boardwalk is not a criminal offense. Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up.” Senate President Bill Ferguson chimed in nonsensically, saying, “No teenager should face brutality for walking along the Boardwalk.” Both comments appeared in an article in The Sun headlined, “Lawmakers, advocates criticize Ocean City Police for excessive force after videos depict violent arrests of Black teens vaping.”
After some of her legislative counterparts made these irresponsible comments without knowing all the facts, Carozza defended her hometown police agency and recounted her experience from a seven-hour plus ride-along she had on Saturday night.
“… In all six of the incidences that I observed, the officers and public safety aides approached the individuals regardless of race, age or gender to inform them in a factual and courteous manner of the ordinance or law and their violation of it,” she said in a statement. “… In one of these incidences, a female officer was assaulted by a female detained for disorderly conduct and public drinking. In another incident, a handgun was found in a car initially pulled over for a traffic violation. In all of these incidences, I personally observed the OCPD officers and public safety aides handled themselves with professionalism as they worked to diffuse and resolve the situation at hand.”
She added, “When I asked OCPD about the June 12th Boardwalk arrests being shared on social media before making a public comment, I was shown the entire OCPD video of the event (not just snippets) and given the facts of the violations. The facts are that the four individuals detained in this incident were arrested for multiple violations including disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, obstructing and hindering, assault second degree, and resisting/interfering with the arrest. The individuals were informed of the smoking and vaping prohibition on the Boardwalk, and their follow up violent actions led to their arrest. These are the facts.”