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ACLU, NAACP Demand Investigation After Video Shows Ocean City Police Officers Using Force To Arrest Teens Accused Of Vaping On Boardwalk

OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) --  Outrage is growing over how Ocean City Police arrested teenagers caught vaping on the boardwalk over the weekend. The Maryland ACLU and NAACP, as well as local and state officials, are raising concerns about the amount of force police used, saying it was inappropriate and unacceptable. Now, many are calling for a thorough investigation.

Ocean City Police said around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, a group of officers noticed a group of teenagers vaping and informed them of the local ordinance prohibiting smoking and vaping outside of the designated areas on the boardwalk. Police said the group did not comply and became disorderly.

The force with which police responded is drawing outrage from Maryland's top officials.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot called the incident "deeply disturbing."

"We must have zero tolerance for police misconduct," Franchot said. "I strongly urge the Att. General to begin an immediate investigation. There must be swift and strong consequences for any and all misconduct."

"Based upon this video and another I have seen, I am deeply concerned about this incident," Attorney General Brian Frosh tweeted. "I have shared that concern with the appropriate law enforcement agencies."

Earlier this month, on June 6, another video posted to Twitter showed Ocean City Police tasing an 18-year-old also accused of vaping. Police said they used their tasers after the teenager threatened to kill them.

Both the Maryland ACLU and the NAACP Maryland State Conference issued statements Monday about the incident over the weekend. They are demanding a thorough investigation into the incident and also asking that the officers be removed from their posts until the completion of the investigation."

"At first sight the video of the African American teenage tourist in Ocean City, MD is disturbing, appalling and flies in the face of all the work leaders, community organizers, law enforcement and anyone concerned about police reform in the state of Maryland," said the NAACP. "The extreme tactics of kneeing and handcuffing an unarmed teenager brings shame to law enforcement and does nothing to improve trust between the community and the police."

"The NAACP Maryland State Conference demands a thorough investigation into the matter of this attack on a tourist that starts with a review of all camera footage and background of the aggressive officer who kicked and detained a teeager who was facedown on the ground during the assault," they continued. "Additionally, we demand that all officers are removed from their posts until this investigation is completed."

"This incident along with other videos show a consistent pattern of assaults on African Americans and sends a message that African American tourist dollars are either not respected or wanted," the NAACP said in closing.

The ACLU said that Black children have the same rights to hang out with their friends and have fun without the fear of being harmed or killed by police.

"Once again, another viral video has shown the world how police harm Black people on a daily basis," The ACLU said. "This Saturday, Ocean City police officers tased, hogtied, and hurt a young Black teenager over a trivial allegation of vaping on the boardwalk. In a separate incident, an officer kneed a Black teenager while another officer held him down in a prone position – over the same trivial allegation. In the first incident, the Black child had his hands up until police directed him to unhook a backpack strap – police then tased him despite his compliance, causing the teen to lose consciousness and fall to the concrete. Ocean City police officers showed a complete lack of humanity towards these Black children. The police officers showed no regard for their young age or for the pain, trauma, and danger police actions caused them. These incidents are a manifestation of the white supremacy endemic to U.S. policing and add to the disgustingly persistent pattern of police mistreating Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other People of Color nationwide."

The ACLU said Ocean City Police didn't even try to de-escalate the situation over "something as minor as vaping."

"The amount of force used here was inappropriate. Police officers need to be trained on Maryland's new Use of Force standard, which will take effect on June 1, 2022," the ACLU said. "This new Use of Force standard will work to prevent similar incidents of unnecessary brutality and hold officers accountable for failure to properly exercise force. Maryland's policing system is working exactly as intended and that is unacceptable. This disturbing incident shows that recent use of force legislation is just the beginning of reform and that more work needs to be done to reimagine policing so that the lives of Black and Brown people are protected. Officers must be held accountable for excessive and unnecessary use of force even when they are not captured on video. Change is not optional."

Governor Larry Hogan was also asked about the altercation.

"It didn't look terrific from the little clip that we saw. And I don't know the circumstances that led up to that or exactly what happened, so I'd rather not speak out without getting all the facts and seeing the entire incident," said Gov. Hogan. He said leaders from the Maryland State Police have been in touch with Ocean City Police and have assured them that there is a thorough investigation underway.

Ocean City Police released this statement following the circulation of videos on social media:

We are aware of the social media videos circulating regarding this incident. Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance. All uses of force go through a detailed review process. The uses of force from these arrests will go through a multi-level examination by the Assistant Patrol Commander, the Division Commander and then by the Office of Professional Standards.

Nineteen-year-old Brian Anderson, 18-year-old Kamere Day, 18-year-old Jahtique Joseph John Lewis and 19-year-old Khalil Dwayne Warren, all of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were arrested and charged with a number of violations as a result of the incident.

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