NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · MARYLAND · Newsgathering · May 17, 2005
TV station files brutality complaint against police
May 17, 2005 · Police injured and intimidated investigative reporter Andrea McCarren during a traffic stop April 15 as she and her photographer, Peter Hakel, were following and videotaping a county-owned car, according to an internal affairs complaint filed with Prince George’s County, Md., Police May 13 by WJLA-TV.
McCarren, who was driving, and Hakel, in the back seat videotaping, were pursuing a tip that a county police officer is assigned as a full-time driver for the Prince George’s County, Md., chief administrative officer.
As they were following the county-owned car in Landover, Md., on April 15, at least nine police cars surrounded the sport utility vehicle on an overpass, according to the station’s complaint. Hakel’s videotape of part of the incident shows McCarren saying, “He’s got a gun pulled on me” before leaving the vehicle and, following officers’ orders, slowly walking backward with her hands in the air.
The complaint alleges one of the officers pinned one of McCarren’s arms behind her back so forcefully that her shoulder partially dislocated — which was not caught on videotape. McCarren, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds, is wearing a sling and undergoing physical therapy, she said.
Officers also ordered Hakel to drop his camera and when they discovered it was still recording, put it back into the vehicle, according to the video.
The station’s complaint also alleges that officers may have known that McCarren was a journalist, although Jim Keary, the county’s spokesman, told the station in a news report about the incident that the officer who was being followed felt threatened by “a suspicious person” following him and called for help.
The station did not immediately file the complaint because it was waiting for responses to requests under the Maryland Access to Records law for the police report, radio transmissions and e-mail communications regarding the event.
“They’ve never formally denied our requests,” McCarren said Tuesday. “If they’ve got nothing to hide, why are they not giving us public records?”
The station also requested dashboard videotapes but were told that the cameras were either not working or not running.
(Media counsel: Jerald Fritz, Washington, D.C.) — KM