Md. State Police, Montgomery Co. council member at odds over traffic stop

A first-term Montgomery County council member charges that he was unfairly stopped by Maryland State Police over the weekend.

Council member Will Jawando, who is African American, was heading to a Saturday morning game of basketball with friends when he was stopped not far from his Silver Spring home.

“This was a similar situation for me. I have been pulled over dozens of times over the years,” said Jawando, a former Obama administration official who was born and raised in Silver Spring and attended Catholic University Columbus School of Law.

On Twitter, Jawando said the Saturday morning traffic stop was among police tactics that “erode public trust in law enforcement and must stop.”

“This was, to me, a classic pretextual stop, where a minor traffic violation or alleged traffic violation is used to see if there are other issues or other criminality,” Jawando said. “Thousands nationwide deal with this every day, people of color, African American men, women, Latino Americans.”

But state police defended the actions of the trooper who conducted the traffic stop. The agency denied that Jawando was targeted because of his race, and said that there was no pretext to the stop.

The trooper, identified as Trooper Shu from the Rockville barracks, did not know Jawando’s race before the stop was made on Maryland Route 650 in the White Oak section of Silver Spring, according to state police.

“The trooper initiated the traffic stop simply because of the violation he observed. This was not a pretextual stop,” said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. “Trooper Shu saw a vehicle pass his car, cross the stop line and enter the intersection before stopping.”

But Jawando insists that he was stopped because of his race.

“He’s saying that my wheel touched the stop line, and so my point is, even if it were true (that) part of my wheel touched the line, being pulled over for that is a pretextual stop,” Jawando said.

He also objected to the questions the trooper asked, including asking if the vehicle was his and if he had any warrants.

Shipley said that Shu routinely asks drivers about the ownership of the vehicle during traffic stops. The trooper used his discretion in not issuing a citation to Jawando for not having a valid driver’s license in his possession; Jawando received a warning for the intersection violation, Shipley said.

The stop was further complicated because just days ago, Jawando had lost his wallet along with his driver’s license and had applied online for a duplicate license, which arrived two days after the stop.

During Saturday morning’s stop, the trooper was able to confirm that Jawando was the holder of a valid Maryland driver’s license.

Shipley said that state troopers are strictly forbidden from bias-based policing and prohibited from stopping a vehicle based solely on a driver’s race.

Jawando maintained that the Saturday morning stop was an unfair police tactic.

“When you look at statistics — whether it’s Montgomery County, Maryland, or nationwide — African Americans, people of color, are stopped for traffic violations of all kinds, are detained, are frisked, are arrested, are killed at astronomically higher rates than any other segment of the population,” Jawando said.

“There’s a reason that happens, and it’s because of a systemic problem of how we police and where we police.”

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