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Crickets: AAC video conference on policing draws no callers discussing racial justice

AACPD Lt. Charles Ravenall

Although the county’s Facebook Livestream Tuesday June 16, drew at least 9,800 viewers there were only three calls taken from the public and none of them were regarding racial justice issues.

The Zoom conference panel did include three leaders from the local African American community: Shelyia Brown, a Pasadena protest organizer; Jacqueline Allsup from the Anne Arundel County NAACP; Lieutenant Charles Ravenell who is an AACPD police officer as well as co-chair of the AAC Black Police Officer Association. Also present were Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, as well as the county police department’s chief Timothy Altomare.

“We made a little bit of a mistake tonight,” Pittman said. The county executive said that another video discussion covering the topic of racial justice was scheduled at the same time by the AAC school system. It was entitled “Let’s talk racial justice” and included an all youth panel, according to Pittman.

Three calls were taken during the policing conference which lasted about 90 minutes. Two involved complaints towards AAC police officers. The first was a complaint by a woman regarding what she said was the handling of a domestic violence case. She was cut off from her statement after discussing it’s circumstance, interjecting “I’m not done!” before the line went dead.

Another caller reported a complaint toward an officer from the southern district of AAC who allegedly filed an erroneous traffic citation against the wife of the caller. The call was also cut off before he had finished speaking.

The last caller was from a Don Tuttle who was recognized and thanked by Pittman for being on a veterans affairs committee. Tuttle mentioned he had submitted a document to the county regarding his reflections on the subject of defunding the police

Panelists on previous county video conferences for various topics have been invited by the county. The panelists for Tuesday’s video conference did bring up the subject of racism in Anne Arundel County and potential police reform.

Jacqueline Allsup, AAC NAACP

“Racism has been alive in Pasadena for a long time, and it’s time for it to change,”Allsup said. “I do hope that we will see change occur in Pasadena.”

Both Allsup and Brown mentioned the community of Green Haven in Pasadena in comments describing both recent and historic racism incidents.

Brown said that “an older gentleman” had posted a social media comment that “coons” would have been afraid to walk past Green Haven in years past. Brown,20. was not familiar with the slur against African Americans and had had to research it to find out what it meant.

Allsup said she remembers riding the public bus that stopped at Green Haven in years passed when African American passengers not being allowed to sit by other riders. When the bus stopped at Green Haven it was pelted with eggs aimed at the Black riders.

"They weren’t directly threatening me,” Brown said of those making racist remarks. “People had their next door neighbors threatening them for supporting what I was trying to do.” Pittman said one Pasadena zip code has had more hate bias police reports than any other zip code than all other zip codes in the state of Maryland.

“It has a reputation,” he said.

Both Brown and the police chief confirmed that by their estimate the protest Brown organized in Pasadena against racial injustice did bring at least 1,500 hundred people out to the street in support.

Shelyia Brown, Protest Organizer

“I love how everything turned out,” Brown said. “I needed everyone to be seen and everyone to be safe.”

The killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department May 25 precipitated many protests around the country, including the one in Pasadena.

Regarding police brutality toward black people Allsup said, “We don’t want what is happening around the country to ever happen in our county.”

“We can’t close our eyes to it,” Ravenall said, “It is something that has to be addressed in the open, because if we chose not to discuss it it will continue to fester.”

Among the many changes that were suggested by the 21st Century Police Review report which came out at about the time Pittman came into office, many have been implemented, the county executive said. One which wasn’t though was the completion of a comprehensive survey and listening process. That is now being more seriously considered.

AACPD Chief Timothy Altomare

“We’re open to conversations about how to move forward so that residents of the county are more engaged,” Pittman said.

Among reforms Allsup supports are the creation of an independent , accountable and transparent Civilian Review Board for the police department. She also was in support of more community policing.

Altomare said that his department’s officers’ performance reviews already included reviews on their engagement of community policing.

The chief said he was in favor of more community policing was more commonplace before car patrols.

“People should know their beat cops,” he said. He indicated that back when police were walking the streets they had relationships with people in the community who knew where trouble might be brewing.

But he was noncommittal on the idea of instituting a civilian review board.

“It’s worth talking about,” Altomare said. “That’s where I stand right now.”

Regarding racism in the Anne Arundel Police Department, the he was more concrete.

“There is no room for racism on the police department,” Altomare said. “You have my commitment to that being my true north. There is but one race—it’s the human race.”

“This is a challenging fight that we have to confront,” Ravenell said. “We can’t run from it.”