Wheaton-Glenmont, MD – A local resident filed a complaint against two Montgomery County police officers after he witnessed them stopping three teenagers who were walking in the middle of the street.
In their formal complaint, Eduardo Ortiz and three other Wheaton residents demanded to know why the officers stopped the teens, and whether or not the stop was “legal,” WUSA reported.
The group also wanted to know if the fingerprint data the officers collected from the juveniles in order to identify them would be “expunged from the system.”
“We do not simply write to complain about this baseless stop and the Police Officers’ actions in lying to residents of the neighborhood, but also to ask for clear answers,” the complaint read, according to WUSA.
According to the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), officers have stepped up their efforts to stop people from walking in the roadway after a series of vehicle-versus-pedestrian collisions.
On Feb. 23, two MCPD officers stopped the three teens after they spotted them walking in the driving lane on Blueridge Avenue, WUSA reported.
Ortiz said that the officers told the group to sit on the curb, then later photographed them as they stood against a wall.
The officers also fingerprinted the juveniles using a mobile device, then released them with paper “pedestrian warning” slips, Ortiz told WUSA.
The slips include a pre-printed list of potential pedestrian-related law violations, such as failing to yield for vehicles and failing to use a crosswalk.
The officers did not mark any of the potential law violations before they handed the pedestrian warning slips to the teens.
Neighbor Angela Patterson said that one of the officers told her that they stopped the group as part of their “pedestrian safety week” efforts, WUSA reported.
But Patterson argued that the stop was out-of-line.
“We’ve never had any pedestrian fatalities on the 1800-block of Blueridge,” she declared.
“Generally we see people walking down the side of the street all day long [and we saw people both during and after this stop walk by], and we have never seen anyone else be stopped or questioned on why they were walking by,” the group’s formal complaint read.
Ortiz noted that the teens had no choice but to walk in the street because there are no sidewalks in that area, WUSA reported.
According to MCPD Captain Thomas Jordan, the juveniles were walking in the “middle” of the roadway when the officers encountered them.
Capt. Jordan said that the department has checked out the neighbors’ complaint and determined that the officers were simply conducting “pedestrian safety education,” WUSA reported.
Because the teens were not carrying any ID, the officers ran their fingerprints through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in case they ultimately decided to issue formal citations, the captain explained.
Capt. Jordan said that the MCPD Fourth District commander has contacted the Montgomery County engineering office to discuss problems associated with the lack of a sidewalk along Blueridge Avenue.
MCPD also advised Ortiz that he still has the option to file a complaint about the stop with the agency’s internal affairs division, WUSA reported.
Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando said he is concerned about the officers’ contact with the juveniles.
“My staff has spoken to the resident who posted about the incident and has reached out to the Montgomery County Police Department to get to the bottom of what occurred,” Jawando told WUSA.
According to the MCPD’s website, over 100 pedestrians are killed and more than 2,500 are injured every year in Maryland due to collisions with motor vehicles.