OCEAN CITY, Md. — U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., is voicing consternation and is among Democrats wanting an investigation over viral social media videos showing Ocean City police tasering a young man and arresting others in a fracas that started over a local ban on vaping.
The social media videos show officers from the Ocean City Police Department in a flap with a group of young men from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The group was aged 18 and 19.
The videos showed OCPD officers using a taser on one of the young men and physically restraining another. The young men — who are all African American — face resisting arrest, assault and disorderly conduct charges.
The incident — which occurred Saturday, June 14 — worries Cardin and other Democrats.
Maryland’s senior U.S. senator along with other state lawmakers and progressive advocates want the Ocean City incidents and officers’ use of force to be investigated.
“The use of force by law enforcement should be a last resort and should be proportional to the threats to the community and officers. The arrest videos and images from this weekend in Ocean City are extremely concerning and warrant a transparent and timely investigation as to how and why the situation escalated so quickly,” Cardin said. “Excessive force should not be tolerated anywhere. In Maryland and nationwide, we need to quickly implement a range of police reform measures, including proper training for police officers, to ensure that all residents are treated fairly and equally under the law, and to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Heather Mizeur, a former progressive state lawmaker who is running for Congress on the Eastern Shore in 2022, also wants an investigation.
“Like many of us on the Eastern Shore, around the state, and across the country, I watched yesterday’s video footage with horror and anger as an officer used excessive force to repeatedly knee a young man who was already restrained on the ground; as another young man with his hands up was tasered, rendering him unconscious; and as still more officers acted with callous disregard for the safety of individuals on the boardwalk. I call for an immediate, thorough investigation into yesterday’s incident, and into the actions of the Ocean City Police officers who responded to the scene,” Mizeur said in a statement.
She is running for Congress as a Democrat with hopes of unseating U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md-1st. “This situation is equal parts unacceptable and avoidable. Escalation to excessive force and over-policing of Black and brown bodies is a pervasive, pernicious reflex deeply rooted in our country’s racist history. And it must end,” Mizeur said.
Ocean City police said in a statement that officers informed the group of the vaping ban and the situation escalated.
“Officers approached the group and informed them of the local ordinance prohibiting smoking and vaping outside of the designated areas on the Boardwalk. As the group walked away, officers observed the same male start vaping again. Officers approached the group again to further address the violation. During the course of the interaction, the male refused to provide his proof of identification and became disorderly,” OCPD said in its statement.
The department said it would review the incidents but added that officers are allowed to use force when dealing with resistant suspects.
“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,” the OCPD statement reads.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state police have reached out to Ocean City officials about the incident and were told there was an investigation underway.