On March 13 a citizen contacted The Baltimore Banner, passing along a story from someone who witnessed something concerning involving the Maryland Capitol Police: a young kid tasered by an officer while lying on the ground near Baltimore’s State Center government office complex, they said.
A witness, who works in the area where the incident took place and asked to remain anonymous because they worried about retribution, later described seeing a group of young men running around and talking to each other loudly. She estimated they were 12- or 13-years-old, maybe a couple of them a little older than that.
A few minutes later, she heard a boy yelling, “Get off me, stop!” She saw him on the ground, on his stomach and with his hands behind his back. She said the incident attracted the attention of others.
“I saw the officer hovering over him, heard a pop, and realized the officer had tased him,” she said. “He was laying on his stomach, he had his hands back behind him, and he was a child.”
The Banner sought to get more information from the Maryland Capitol Police, a police agency that falls under the state Department of General Services and whose officers watch over government facilities.
After two weeks, the agency has said little — and said the Attorney General’s Office was telling them not to, citing laws that require secrecy around juvenile court proceedings.
State Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat involved with crafting the law that’s being cited, said it was being misapplied. She said it’s supposed to protect information about youth from being released — not suppress information about police actions.
“There is no reason why they can’t give info about the event and simply say the suspects are juveniles,” Carter said.
Indeed, other area police departments regularly release details of crimes in which a minor is the suspect or arrested. Police press releases are chock-full of such examples.
When The Banner first asked Capitol Police for basic information about the incident, they initially said only that officers “did respond to an incident at the State Center complex on Monday afternoon.”
“The Maryland Capitol Police are reviewing information, as the incident is currently under investigation. Additional information will be available after the investigation is completed,” said General Services spokesman Nick Cavey.
There was no mention of any use of force or what happened to the individuals involved. The Banner pressed for more.
Cavey then confirmed that officers had “responded to an incident in the late afternoon involving a group of individuals at the State Center Complex” and said “a Taser was involved in the incident.” But he said any further information had to be withheld pending the investigation.
The Banner wanted to know if anyone was arrested. Days went by without a response.
After a reporter wrote to the secretary of General Services, Atif Chaudry, his top staff, and Maryland Capitol Police Chief Michael Wilson this week, the agency relented the next day and acknowledged that two juveniles were arrested and subsequently released. Cavey said the investigation into the event that prompted officers to get involved “has been completed.” But Cavey said the agency would not release any additional information about it.
“In accordance with provisions of law protecting the privacy of juveniles (e.g. Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article Title 3 Subtitle 8a of the Annotated Code of Maryland), we cannot provide additional information,” he said.
The agency has not said why the officers had engaged the youth in the first place. And they said they won’t.
“The information requested falls under the provisions of law protecting the privacy of juveniles and cannot be released,” Cavey said.
The Attorney General’s Office advises agencies on the law. An assistant Attorney General named Lauri McGuire handles matters related to General Services.
When the Banner sought to discuss the matter with the office, they sent a curt reply:
“The Office of the Attorney General does not provide legal advice or legal opinions to the public. To the extent that you are requesting records from the Capitol Police, that request must be made to the Capitol Police.”
The witness said she remembers the boy asking the Capitol Police officer if he could call his mom. The officer told him no. An onlooker asked the boy for his mother’s number, and he started to yell it out but the officer stopped him, she said.
“It was very upsetting,” she said.
Capitol Police said the investigation into the officers was continuing. It’s unclear how long it could take — or if the agency will continue to cite the involvement of juveniles as grounds to withhold information.