Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson today said that the investigation of a February 23 incident in Towson, captured on a citizen’s video, will examine the actions of a citizen auxiliary police officer as well as of BCoPD officers.
“The words of and demands to cease filming by sworn personnel and citizen volunteer auxiliary officers were incorrect, inappropriate and unnecessary,” Chief Johnson said this morning. “They were not helpful in bringing this incident to closure. As we already have stated, all aspects of this encounter are under investigation, and all personnel will be held accountable for their actions.”
The auxiliary sergeant – seen in the video confronting the young man recording the incident and telling him he “lost” his rights – has been restricted to administrative volunteer duties pending the outcome of the investigation. His name is being withheld pending the outcome of the investigation. He has been a member of the Auxiliary for 22 years.
BCoPD also will review the actions of BCoPD supervisors involved in the incident depicted in the video of the incident in the 400 block of York Road at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday, when officers from several agencies worked to control a disturbance.
Johnson, who reviewed the video multiple times, said the language used by officers in the video and the statements about the citizen’s lack of constitution rights are simply wrong. “This Department enjoys a good relationship with its citizens largely because of its longstanding commitment to treating people with respect for their rights. Our personnel will be held accountable if they fail to do that,” he said.
The person filming the video, who was not arrested, has not filed a complaint and has not approached BCoPD. Investigators are trying to identify and contact him because they believe his story will help them build a complete picture of what happened.
The question of whether citizens may record video of police officers was settled by the Maryland courts several years ago. Since that ruling, BCoPD has directed its personnel to respect the legal right of citizens to record officers on duty, in a public place, unless the person filming has violated a law or statute. BCoPD’s command staff reminded sworn supervisors of this legal right this morning.
About the Auxiliary Police
About 80 trained citizens volunteer as auxiliary police officers, providing support to BCoPD with regard to patrol, calls for service, crowd and traffic control, community events and details.
Citizen auxiliary members attend about 115 hours of training provided by BCoPD and modeled after – though less comprehensive than – the training for BCoPD officers. This training is commensurate with the level of responsibility and authority delegated to these volunteers.
Over the past six years, citizens volunteering as auxiliary members have donated more than 100,000 hours of service to the County. “These ordinary citizens provide a tremendous service to us, at no cost,” Johnson said. “They have played an important role in our efforts to reduce crime in Baltimore County, and have been an invaluable resource for us in handling everything from precinct office work to traffic control.”