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Md. student's beating 'very serious,' says Gov. O'Malley

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley seemed caught off guard in a radio interview on Monday when asked to comment on the apparent police beating of an unarmed University of Maryland student that has drawn international attention and led to a civil rights probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In his monthly appearance on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" program, O'Malley stopped short of condemning the beating in similarly tough terms used by Prince George's Police Chief Roberto Hylton or State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.

After a video of the March 3 altercation surfaced last week, Hylton said he was "outraged and disappointed." Ivey vowed to take officers before a grand jury, saying "excessive force will not be tolerated."

When asked by WTOP host Mark Segraves, O'Malley repeated Segraves' description of the beating as "a very serious matter" and said that although he has not discussed the matter with Prince George's officials, he thought county leaders were responding appropriately.

O'Malley, however, then went on to say that "very few of us were actually there, on the scene" and because of that and other improvements made to Prince George's long troubled police department "we owe it to that good work to conduct this investigation [into officers' conduct] fairly and properly and following due process."

A tape released last week shows three Prince George's County police officers in riot gear using their batons to beat John J. McKenna, 21, following a University of Maryland-Duke basketball game on March. 3.

The video shows McKenna skipping along a sidewalk before he stops in front of a phalanx of officers on horseback. As he stood there, two Prince George's officers ran and attacked him. A third officer later joined the beating. McKenna required eight staples to close a gash on his scalp. An initial police report appeared to be falsified, saying McKenna was injured by horses.

The FBI is investigating and four Prince George's officers have been relieved of police powers while they remain under investigation.

When asked about the incident at the beginning of the program, O'Malley initially tried to steer the interview to recent positive news for the state.

"You don't want to start with the fact that Maryland led all states in job creation for the month of March? You don't want to talk about the rebound of the blue crab?" O'Malley said.

Later, O'Malley said, "So long as we have human beings who do these difficult jobs, and indeed human beings in any profession, there will always be times that call upon us to investigate, and where necessary, act, in order to address behavior that is outside of what is expected."

O'Malley, who will likely face former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. in a November rematch for a second term as Maryland's governor, won four years ago in part on a reputation as a tough on crime Baltimore mayor. In 2006, the state's largest law enforcement union backed Ehrlich.

Asked in an e-mail following the radio interview if O'Malley shares Hylton's reaction of "outraged and disappointed" to the beating video, O'Malley press secretary Shaun Adamec said, "It's obviously very disturbing, and the governor has said as much. I think it's appropriate to stick with the words the governor has used to describe his feelings on the matter."

In that spirit, here's the transcript of the governor's full response:

Mark Segraves: "...Let's talk about this video, you must have seen it by now. It's a very serious matter. And to make sure our listeners are up to speed, it shows several Prince George's County officers beating an unarmed University of Maryland student. The initial police report that was filed said the student was injured by horses. We now know from seeing that video that's not the case, several officers have been suspended. There's an investigation, in fact a federal investigation. Your thoughts now?"

O'Malley: "My thoughts are that this is a very serious matter and it's one that's being taken seriously by not only the chief of police for Prince George's County but also by the county executive. So long as we have human beings who do these difficult jobs, and indeed human beings in any profession, there will always be times that call upon us to investigate, and where necessary, act, in order to address behavior that is outside of what is expected.

And so, this is a very serious matter. Everybody, I mean, lots of people have seen the video. Very few of us were actually there, on the scene. But I'm sure this matter will receive the attention that it deserves from the chief of police of Prince George's County. And I think that, um, you know, part of the responsibility that we have in any police force is to not only police the streets, but to police our own force when necessary.

I'm very proud of the strides Prince Georges' County has made in violent crime reduction and their reduction of auto thefts. And we owe it to that good work to conduct this investigation fairly and properly and following due process, because the most important thing that protects officers on the street is the trust the public has in their integrity."

-- Aaron C. Davis

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 19, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Politics , Pr. George's  
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Comments

What an empty suit. Only passionate about the death penalty, i.e., mercy for killers.

Posted by: gbooksdc | April 19, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

This dumbasss is gonna give the election back to Ehrlich based on that stupid response alone. This ain't 'The Wire' "Tommy"...better wakeup

Posted by: kahlua87 | April 19, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of what the student did or did not say to the police on horseback, the actions of the police are inexcusable. Further, the police officer who blatantly lied on a sworn police report must be charged with committing perjury and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law with the maximum criminal sentence allowed. An example must be made. Abuse of authority and police brutality (in PG county, cases that have gone on for DECADES, not years) by those who are legally empowered with the use of deadly force CANNOT BE TOLERATED. If there were not a video of this incident that was made public, this case would be swept under the rug along with all the others that preceded it. It's long past time that the entire PG county police force gets re-organized, from the ground up and the top down.

Posted by: capvid | April 20, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I was born in the USA. Every day at school we put our hand on our heart & recited the pledge of allegiance. We learned the national anthem & several other patriotic songs. Every history book we read & story we were told, exclaimed the greatness of America. We were told, "Everyone wants to come to America!" We were told how lucky we were to be born in "The Greatest Country In The World!" Americans were portrayed as the heroes all over the world, saving the oppressed from repressive regimes.
Scenes such as the unprovoked beating of an un-armed citizen causes me to cease believing all the propaganda I was inundated with as a child. I no longer believe there is any difference between the police in the USA & any other repressive nation's law-enforcement.

Upon viewing the video, each & every one of those officers should have lost their jobs immediately.
I certainly hope that the officers at the scene are ALL prosecuted for their part(s) in the brutal beating of an obviously innocent young man. Those things are not supposed to happen in "The Greatest Country In The World." The officers who watched & did nothing, including those on horseback, are as much at fault as those who took part in the actual beating. I hope a jury of their peers sends each & every one of those officers to prison for abusing their privilege/power, for attempting/assisting in a cover-up, for assault & battery, for perjury & for any other crime that applies.

It is a privilege to be a police officer. The people of our nation are supposed to trust those men & women who are supposed to protect us.
But who is going to protect us from the police?

That young man was un-armed, in a completely defenseless situation & showed absolutely no signs of aggression.
Had he stood there yelling insults about the officers' mothers, it would still not have been legal to beat him.
Not in the USA.

We must have SOMEthing that sets us apart from other nations.
Our people should rise up & demand justice for the citizenry of this nation.
The governor is disappointed.
Congratulations.
I'm disappointed too... in the entire nation for not being completely outraged.

Posted by: Betsy_Ross | April 20, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

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