Investigations urged into videos of Ocean City police using force over vaping ban

Lawmakers and others are calling for an investigation over recent viral videos of police using force on teenagers who allegedly had violated Ocean City, Maryland’s vaping ban.

One incident caught on video happened last Saturday on the boardwalk, and it shows a crowd watching as police held down one person. One officer is shown striking the person with his knee several times.

Other officers can then be seen having confrontations with others in the crowd and detaining at least two people and holding them against a wall. Then another person can be seen on the ground with several officers over him.

Another video — of an incident that happened on June 6 — shows one person with his hands up surrounded by police. When he lowers one hand to reach for the bag on his back, the video shows him being struck by a stun gun and falling down.

Although it’s not possible to tell in either incident exactly what happened, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said both incidents showed “a use of force that, just based on what was in the video, looked disturbing.”

Frosh said that the footage of the officer kneeing a person looks “particularly aggressive,” but it’s not possible to say what happened, “unless you were there, and unless you interviewed all the witnesses.”

Police said that around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, they approached a large group allegedly vaping on the boardwalk and told them that smoking and vaping were prohibited outside designated areas.

One person started vaping again as the group walked away, and police told the group again about the ordinance. Police said the person refused to provide identification, and at that point, a crowd started to form.

Police identified the person as Brian Everett Anderson, 19, of Pennsylvania, and tried to arrest him for not providing ID for allegedly violating the vaping ordinance. They said he resisted arrest, and was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting/interfering with arrest, second-degree assault, and failure to provide proof of identity. He has been released on his own recognizance.

Other teenagers arrested and charged Saturday were Kamere Anthony Day, 19; Jahtique Joseph John Lewis, 18; and Khalil Dwayne Warren, 19. All teenagers were from Pennsylvania, and they, too, were released on personal recognizance.

Police said Day was yelling profanities and approaching officers arresting Anderson; Lewis pushed a public safety aide in the chest and tried to strike the aide with a bicycle he picked up; and Warren was standing on private property with no trespassing signs.

You can watch a video of what happened below. (Editor’s Note: The video below may contain some strong language and may be distressing to some viewers.)

In the June 6 incident, police said in a statement that the 18-year-old was stopped because he was violating the city smoking ordinance, and that he had become disorderly and yelled at police, threatening to kill them. After the teenager was stunned, police said he continued to make threats and resist arrest. Police also said that they found a switchblade in his book bag.

You can watch a video of what happened below. (Editor’s note: The content of the video may be distressing to some viewers.)

Someone off-screen can be heard saying to police after they stunned the teenager, “You all did that for no reason.” The mother of the teenager, identified as Taizier Griffin, told The Washington Post that witnesses said her son put the vape in his pocket and began to walk away after police said he was not allowed to vape there.

ACLU of Maryland said in a statement that Ocean City police officers showed a “complete lack of humanity toward these Black children. The police officers showed no regard for their young age or for the pain, trauma and danger police actions caused them.”

Frosh said law enforcement agencies need to do a full investigation on the incidents.

“It’s possible to look at those videos and question whether the force that was used was reasonable force. You need the full context. You need the full investigation in order to make those determinations, but certainly those questions are raised by the videos,” Frosh said.

The Town of Ocean City said that its officers are permitted to use force to “overcome exhibited resistance,” and all uses of force go through a review process.

“The uses of force from these arrests will go through a multilevel examination by the assistant patrol commander, the division commander and then by the Office of Professional Standards,” the town said.

ACLU of Maryland called the use of force in the incidents “inappropriate,” and accused police of not trying to de-escalate, “especially over something as minor as vaping.”

Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown said the videos showed excessive use of force, and that behavior exhibited by police “harms public trust in law enforcement.”

“A teen vaping on the boardwalk clearly isn’t a threat to public safety,” Brown said in a statement.

The NAACP Maryland State Conference also wants an investigation. The group is also asking that the officers be removed from their posts until the investigation is completed.

ACLU of Maryland said officers need to be trained in the state’s new use-of-force standard, which was passed by the General Assembly last April.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and a master’s degree in English Literature from The George Washington University.

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