Disturbing Police Policy Observed On Boardwalk
(The following letter was addressed to the Ocean City Mayor and Council with a copy sent to this newspaper for publishing.)
I would like to share with you what I saw on the Boardwalk June 14 from the perspective of a white, middle-aged tourist.
Just before 3 p.m., my family and I were seated outside at a restaurant in the 600 block of the boardwalk when right in front of us, a group of young white women got into a verbal altercation with a couple of young black men. The entire thing lasted for less than a minute, they were about 40 feet apart, and they were all cussing and yelling but made no attempt to get near each other. Then the black men turned and started to leave down 7th Street.
Police officers on bikes and on foot came swarming in from every direction, completely ignoring the white women and surrounded the black men. They grabbed one, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. One officer shot pepper spray into the crowd that gathered about 20 feet away, telling them to go away. The crowd continued to yell and several other officers, ignoring a great number of white tourists doing the same thing, lunged at a young black man in the crowd who had been yelling at them. The man turned and ran, and a large number of officers plowed down the Boardwalk after him, crashing into tables, mannequins, store displays and my elderly parents at the restaurant table as they jumped on top of him for being mouthy.
I have never in my life seen police act with such obvious racism and aggression when they could have easily deescalated the situation or admonished everyone involved, rather than ignore the white people while violently arresting the black people. The last year has seen a lot of unrest but I am horrified at your police’s refusal to de-escalate and their insistence on targeting the black teenagers in a crowd of white teenagers.
Since then, I’ve been watching and every day I see officers giving polite warnings about alcohol, smoking and biking to older adults and completely ignoring white teenagers while aggressively following black teenagers up and down the boardwalk.
I’ve been coming to Ocean City for years and I have never felt afraid until now. I’m used to the unruly teenagers during senior week – they’re nothing worse than loud. But I’m now terrified that my children or elderly parents will be trampled by police in pursuit of a loudmouthed black kid and I’m horrified by your new policing policy. Whatever your intention, it certainly appears to be an intentional policy of “Keep Black People Out Of Ocean City.”
Commission Not Acting In OC’s Best Interests
I want to say thank you to our “exceptional” Ocean City Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. What is exceptional about them, you ask? In my opinion, it is the commission members’ ability to make building code “exceptions” for virtually every project submitted to them and provide very little in the way of protecting the quality of life for their already established residents.
The P&Z Commission has just allowed nearly 100 new residences, consisting of three new projects, to be built at the top of the Caine Woods neighborhood. Fifty-nine new town homes, 36 new condos and a duplex. They have added a whole new neighborhood on top of an already established neighborhood. Think about it — 400 to 600-plus new residents encroaching on the neighborhood and local area, all at once.
And here are some of the “exceptions” that were allowed by the P&Z Commission — exceptions to required number of onsite parking spaces; exceptions to required setbacks; exceptions to required sidewalk sizing; and exceptions to required driveway approaches. I could go on, but you get the point.
Notably, the P&Z Commission gave up 29 required onsite parking spaces for these residences to be built. It’s bad enough the neighborhood streets get beach goers parking on them in the summer. Now they will have to contend with beach goers and residents parking on the neighborhood streets. By the way, does the P&Z Commission really believe the new residents of the condos are going to park in a remote lot when they can park on the street in front of their residences? Come on, stop fooling yourselves. At least stop trying to fool us.
I can somewhat understand how this all happens. The almighty tax dollar reigns supreme. It seems the P&Z Commission’s mindset is more money, more money, more money and do not offend the builder’s pockets that provide it. But what about the people that already live here?
It appears the P&Z Commission is trying to turn North Ocean City (NOC) into South Ocean City (SOC). If you live here (or visit here often), you know what that means. NOC is relaxed and laid back to SOC’s exuberance and bustle; NOC is roomy and breathable to SOC’s congestion and asphyxia; NOC is calming and peaceful to SOC’s fervor and intensity. Neither area is necessarily wrong or bad, but the twain should never meet! Or be engulfed.
In the “no comments from the public” meeting, the P&Z Board not only gave little credence to their own tangible codes, supposedly designed to protect the established residents, but they ignored other intangible issues as well.
For example, Caine Woods already has issues with speeders cutting over to Route 54, particularly on 141st and 142nd streets. OCPD has been trying to deal with it for years, to little avail. With no planning, hundreds of additional cars will now be utilizing both these streets.
And to top it off, there is only one cross street (142nd) that allows you to go north on Coastal Highway between 140th Street and 145th Street, the area where these residences are being built. The streets of Caine Woods and Sinepuxent Avenue, the parallel back street to Coastal Highway, are now going to be overwhelmed with traffic.
And, if there is only one cross street where these residences are being built, where do you believe the residents are going to cross Coastal Highway to get to the beach? That’s right. In the middle of the blocks. Now it will be overcrowded and dangerous for both the pedestrians and traffic in that area. I could go on with more tangibles and intangibles, but again, you get the point.
So let’s see. Heavy traffic, speeders, congestion, lack of parking, jaywalkers, accidents, crowded beaches — I’d say you’re on your way, P&Z Commission, to changing North Ocean City into South Ocean City. I guess this is where my original thank you in the first sentence comes into play.