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NAACP Calls For Suspension Of Officers In Violent Ocean City Arrests

Del. Sandra Bartlett speaks at the NAACP's news conference
Joel McCord
Del. Sandra Bartlett speaks at the NAACP's news conference

Leaders of Maryland’s NAACP are calling for the suspension of the Ocean City police officers involved in the recent violent arrests of five young Black men captured in viral videos and suggesting a boycott of Ocean City businesses.

Ivory Smith, president of the Worcester County chapter of the NAACP, called for the suspension of the officers as well as an independent investigation.

In a news conference in Annapolis Wednesday, he said he has worked security jobs in Ocean City, and he’s seen a lot, but what he saw in the videos was unacceptable.

“That's why I'm calling for a third-party investigation from some other agencies besides the Ocean City Police Department, the public release of any video or camera footage and other records and incidents in possession of Ocean City Police Department,” he said.

Willie Flowers, the state NAACP president, called the officers’ conduct an insult to those who would spend tourism dollars in Ocean City and suggested a boycott.

“If Ocean City doesn't want the money of young Black men, and they want to spend their time attacking them using MMA moves on them when they're on the on the ground,. handcuffed, then maybe we shouldn't spend our money in Ocean City,” he told a crowd on Lawyer’s Mall by the State House.

In video of an incident last weekend, an officer can be seen ramming his knee repeatedly into the side of one of the teens who is being held down on his stomach. Police arrested four young men in that incident, all from Harrisburg, Pa., on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and failing to show proper identification.

In a separate video from June 6, police used a stun gun on a young man. The teen initially had his hands over his head, but he lowered one hand just before an officer fired the stun gun.

Ocean City police have said in both cases that the teens were vaping outside of designated areas on the boardwalk, that they failed to obey law enforcement officers’ commands and that they became disorderly.

The videos went viral and drew sharp criticism and condemnation from Maryland lawmakers and others.

At Wednesday’s news conference, James Spearman, a retired Annapolis police sergeant, called the officers’ conduct “deplorable and unprofessional.”

“If you want to be able to do a good job to protect and serve, you have to protect and serve,” he said. “You cannot abuse your authority, you cannot abuse the citizens, no matter how difficult they may be. That goes with the job. Please stop.”

The incidents come a few months after Maryland lawmakers passed a series of police reform laws, one of which restricts officers’ use of force.

The Ocean City Police Department said in a statement police are permitted to use force, “per their training,” and that all uses of force “go through a detailed review process.”

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said the town is investigating the incidents.

In a statement, he said his primary goal is to keep residents and visitors safe.

“We hope to seek compliance, not arrests, in order for everyone to safely enjoy our community,” he wrote.

A city spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the officers’ status.

Meanwhile, civil rights lawyer Billie Murphy threatened to sue Ocean City over at least one incident.

He said during the news conference he has been contacted by one of the young men from Harrisburg and expects to hear from others as well.

“We are particularly outraged by the wanton, in-front-of-cameras, attack on one of these young men by the officer who just repeatedly kneed him in the side where his vital organs are, without any excuse or justification whatsoever,” Murphy said.

He said a culture of unlawful behavior against Black people runs so deep that police “just can’t seem to help themselves.”

“Well, we're going to help them,” Murphy said. “We're going to file every possible legal action against them that the law permits.”