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Enter the Damascus snitch ...

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Published on: Thursday, January 09, 2014

By Brian J. Karem

For the last two years we’ve received several anonymous tips in our newsroom regarding delivery people tipping off the local police on underage drinking. We took it with a grain of salt.

It was Orwellian and the height of paranoia to believe your local delivery guy was an agent for the cops.

Turns out in at least one case, the paranoids were right.

This week police admitted a tip from a local pizza delivery man led them to arrest several people at a private party in Damascus.

Appalling as it is to think we are snitching on each other, it is even more appalling to read what the police say they did.

I am not referring to what witnesses or those arrested had to say about the incident, rather it is the charging documents written by the police themselves which serve to send a chill up and down our spine.

Imagine if you will a family throwing a party for their son who is 21. Some of his friends are under age, but you’re not a hypocrite about that. Many are within a few months of being 21 and everyone (who will later be cited) at the party is an adult. You make provisions for the friends to sleep over if they want to celebrate.

The party is being enjoyed by all. No neighbors complain. You order a pizza and maybe you don’t tip the delivery boy enough. Maybe he’s working for the police and maybe he’s friends with or has been compromised by the police.

The next thing you know a police officer is at your door demanding entry. He has no warrant. You inform him he is not invited inside and he tries to take your alcoholic beverages from your residence.

From there it descends into a fight. The property owner, his wife and their 18-year-old son are struck by police officers. The father and the son are tased and struck to “achieve a change of behavior,” according to police. The residents fight back and are arrested. Only then do the police ask for and receive a warrant.

The sanctity of your home has been compromised. Police use a battering ram to break down your door and issue a summons to everyone underage drinking on the premises.

Why did the police have to do this? There were no complaints from neighbors about the party and by the officers own words, they started the altercation which led to a near riot when they tried to come inside the home without permission and tried to take alcohol which didn’t belong to them. They had no warrant. They confiscated cell phones and some of those apparently had digital video of the incident on them.

Welcome to the modern day socialist republic where those who enforce the law know better than we do and have more rights than we have.

They have the right to tase you in your own home and strike you and charge you with assault when you defend yourself. They have the right to bash down your door over a minor drinking charge, scaring the Hell out of your friends, neighbors and their children. Yes, I understand apparently there was underage drinking going on. Yes, I understand it is against the law. Yes, I understand drinking and driving is a serious offense.

No, I don’t understand compromising my civil rights and the sanctity of a home for a misdemeanor offense, inciting a riot, beating and tasing people -including one man after he was already in handcuffs and then puffing my chest with pride as I do so.

The police actions are reprehensible. Even if they were within the guidelines of the law, and I’m sure they weren’t, how the people in Damascus were treated on Saturday night cuts against the grain of the way human beings should treat each other – with respect.

Had the police shown a minimum of respect for the family in Damascus there would have been no arrests and perhaps no problems.

Why not merely knock on the door, ask for the homeowner and explain you were tipped there was some underage drinking going on? “Does everyone have a ride home? Is everyone staying the night? We don’t want to make problems, but we don’t want people roaming the streets driving while intoxicated. Ma’am if we have any problems we can set up a sobriety check point outside the house. Please. Thank you and have a pleasant evening.”

There was no reason in the politically correct police state of Montgomery County in 2014 for the police actions taken in Damascus Saturday. I could wax on about my grandfather the circuit court judge, and how he gave me my first drink, or how my father raised me to respect others even when they didn’t deserve respect. Or I can merely say the police officers that night overstepped their boundaries and the “near riot” in Damascus was a monster of their own making.

But when you believe you have the power to bully others those who lack morale fiber do so no matter what the consequences.

Enter the Brave New World.

Reader Comments - 19 Total

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Posted By: The Montgomery County Sentinel On: 1/13/2014

Title: Civil Rights

The purpose of this editorial is not to debate the legality of underage drinking. It is against the law.
The question is, did the police violate the civil rights of private property owners in order to enforce the law? And do you believe it is okay to do so? We find the violation of civil rights to be reprehensible - the word we used.
Do the ends justify the means?

Posted By: Mr. Burgundy On: 1/13/2014

Title: Real MoCo Tax payer

I don't understand why my taxes are wasted enforcing laws in those hillbilly towns!!! Clearly if Billy Bob and Shirlene are allowing underage drinking on their farm, where are the parents of the other kids?, Do they know where their tractors are?. I'm incredibly disgusted by the police for trying to civilize and enforce laws in those lawless places. For all those affected by laws and civilization, please stay north of Skylark rd., Thanks and always remember to Stay Classy, MoCo!!!!

Posted By: Real MoCo Tax Paying Citizen On: 1/13/2014

Title: Moonshine Drinkers

I don't understand why my taxes are wasted enforcing laws in those hillbilly towns!!! Clearly if Billy Bob and Shirlene are allowing underage drinking on their farm, where are the parents of the other kids?, Do they know where their tractors are?. I'm incredibly disgusted by the police for trying to civilize and enforce laws in those lawless places. For all those affected by laws and civilization, please stay north of Skylark rd., Thanks and always remember to Stay Classy, MoCo!!!!

Posted By: Tony On: 1/12/2014

Title: Grow up and take responsibility.

Underage drinking is illegal. The MoCo alcohol unit deals with alcohol violations.
If anyone sees anything illegal going on, reporting it is the right thing to do.
Parents allowing criminal activity to go on under their watch should be ashamed.
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
The same people whining here would be calling for a formal investigation of the police department if an underage kid got hurt because of alcohol poisoning. If you think it doesn't happen, then you need to visit your local hospital one of these weekends.
"Welcome to the modern day socialist republic where those who enforce the law know better than we do and have more rights than we have."
REALLY?? By your ignorant comments, and there are several in this article, I feel I know more about law than you do.
"The police actions are reprehensible."
To me, hypocrites and those who fail to grow up and live in their community in a civilized manner are reprehensible.
I moved to MoCo because of the better real estate resale, and higher level of education of those living within the community. To my surprise, there are still many ignorant residents; some are making their way into newspaper reporters.

Posted By: MP On: 1/12/2014

Title: Missing the point

Why are the majority of the respondants, as well as the author of this article missing the point that under age drinking is against the law, and that parents that foster this sort of behavior are just as much at fault as any establishment that sells to minors.
In the scenario at the end of the article, the writer has the police knock at the door and inquire as to whether there is under age drinking going on inside. The next questions, per the writer, should be not regarding things pertaining to the upholding of the law, but questions of room and board and threats of a DUI check point right in front of the residence.
Why does this article find that delivery people with a concience is such a horrific, "Orwellian" idea? At what level of crime occuring in the home is it ok for the delivery guy to notify the police? When its drugs? Certain kinds of drugs? When your child is the victim?
I don't think it was the police or the delivery guy that lacked the "moral fiber", it was the parents knowingly breaking the law and serving underage drinkers. The law is the law across the board.
And by the way. Try not hitting the police next time. Might work out better for you. I've never hit the police, and they've never hit me, either. Funny how that works out.

Posted By: M. Baker On: 1/12/2014

Title: Confused and Disappointed

Under 21 alcohol use is illegal, unhealthy, and unacceptable. I have observed the controlled party dispersal after probable cause has been established. It is a safe protocol that strives to keep youth safe.
Why would any adult put other children at risk? Sexual assault, unwanted preganancy, alcohol poisoning, fighting, concealed weapons, and car crashes all result in life altering injuries or death!
Can you honestly support parental behavior that endagers lives? They are supposed to be the role models for youth.
Why is there such a pervasive attitude of disrespect of youth and the officers who are sworn to protect and serve?
Color me very confused and disappointed.

Posted By: MCPD RETIRED On: 1/12/2014

Title: Saving a Life

All I can say is that apparently this writer has something against the police. Does anyone really think that all these goodie two shoes juveniles were going to spend the night. They all think that, "It will never happen to me". The pizza delivery boy very well might have saved a life by notifying the police. Nowhere in the article was it mentioned that two officers were punched in the face, and that the home owner(father) attempted to grab a police officer's weapon. He gets the weapon and then what, another police funeral. Wouldn't that be great. Also not mentioned was that the mother jumped on the back of one officer. Another wonderful example for all involved. The police observed under age drinking, but also smelled WEED. They then left the house and waited outside for several hours for a search warrant. They should have stayed in the house and monitored all party goers until the search warrant arrived. As it turned out, once the warrant was served al the drugs had been flushed down the sink or toilet. Other offensive actions and gestures made by the juveniles were not mentioned. Things will never improve as long as parents back these illegal actions of their kids, and they are made out as the victims, and the police are crucified for trying to do what is a most difficult job. The next time you or one of your family is the victim of a crime, or your house is broken into - who are you going to call?

Posted By: Logical and Realistic On: 1/11/2014

Title: In reply to "so sad"

You're an idiot if you believe a single thing from that embellished police report. It sounds like you are blindly taking the side against the family solely to be against them. What danger did they possibly pose in breaking an underage drinking law. Every person drinking was encouraged to stay the night and not drive. If anything, the teens in Damascus caught drinking that night were safe in the home, free from temptation to drink and drive or get caught drinking. Forcing young adults to not drink is like teaching pigs to fly, not happening. Reading that report, any sane individual would not grab for a police officers gun. "If he had gotten the gun," then what? Would there be a standoff in Damascus. This is a father protecting his family in the sanctity of his home. From testimony of individuals at the party, it is my understanding that the father was tased once, taken to the ground, then tased again twice for no reason.

Posted By: Sean M. Potomac Maryland On: 1/11/2014

Title: Nothing new.

To start off with my comment is not intended to label all County Police as being bad and abusive.
Clearly the police cannot just burst into someones home unless their is a declared emergency, such as a report of a intruder etc.
For the police to enter the side yard of the home and discover a keg in the outside stairwell is beyond the scope of any search. The police could approach the residence but only to the front door area and were told by the homeowner they did not consent to the search.
Maryland law and court cases have been pretty clear about the scope of government to search ones home or curtilage . Residents have a constitutional right guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment to unreasonable searches. The law would permit the officer to walk along a normal route to the structures entrance. If standing at the front of the building they could see the keg this could be considered to be in plain view.
I hope the homeowner through their attorney sue the county and win.
Quite frankly the Chief is responsible for the behavior of his officers and must be held accountable. Seizure of personal property to destroy evidence is against the law. The officers involved in this action must be investigated and it sure as heck is not by the county IAD investigators. If found guilty of abuse of power and other violations they should be fired!
Montgomery County has had a long history of abusing authority, and this instance is just one in a long case. I have been witness to this abuse having resided in Montgomery County for some 50 years. It has been common practice for the police to raid so called parties and disrespect the rights of the homeowners. I remember police entering structures and asking where for ID and the homeowner. In the good ole days the police would often show up in riot gear with wooden batons (nightclubs) or slap sticks and work over young citizens. In a case at a house located in the proximity of Seven Locks Road and Gainsborough Road in Potomac. Montgomery County police created a near riot and launched tear gas on the party. At the time I was over 18 years old and drinking was completely legal . There may have been underage persons drinking, but the actions of the police created a situation where many could have been seriously injured. The police must be reminded that they work for the taxpayers and stop treating all citizens like they are wanted gangsters.

Posted By: tired of no one taking responsibility for their actions On: 1/10/2014

Title: respect

First why do we blame anyone but the home owners and the kids for drinking underage. It's not the pizza mans fault kids were throwing up in the front yard. Let's talk about respect and showing your kids how to show respect. When you corner a cop and slam his arm in a door Is not respect. Also jumping on the cops back is not respect. I will tell you my brother died when he was suppose to stay at a house and sleeping over. Drunk people aren't reasonable and you can't watch everyone all the time. They will leave if they want. Also kids throwing up in front yard Is notkeeping kids safe. Why is attacking a cop or going for his gun the pizza mans fault. Why is it the poor homeowner when you are jumping on the back of a cop. What are you showing your kids. Don't put the blame on everyone else but who deserves it . That's why some people in Damascus think they can do whatever. They never take responsibility for their own actions. It is always someone else's fault. Blame the kids for having fake id's and drugs and drinking underage and getting caught. Blame the parents for letting it happen in their home. Blame the kids and parents with fighting with law enforcement . Let's NOT blame the pizza guy or the police.

Posted By: Pirate Steve On: 1/10/2014

Title: underage drinking party

It is a disgrace to Montgomery County that the people involved were treated like violent criminals and were beaten and tased. There is no doubt in my mind that the police actions caused the uproar as it happens way too often these days. I lost a dear friend in April 2013 from Montgomery County Police tasing him for a stand off of rights, yes he was killed by a police taser. To cut this short, why is it okay for an 18 year old to be given a gun and fight for your rights in the military over seas but yet not trusted enough to enjoy a beer at home.

Posted By: K. Watkins On: 1/10/2014


Thank god I am not the only sane person left in Montgomery County. Perhaps police resources would have been better used by tackling the heroine problem in Damascus instead of tackling its upstanding citizens. I am not condoning underage drinking, however underage drinking like the use of illegal drugs is not going away. The host parents of this party realize this fact and have taken a very responsible step by allowing their underage guests, with their parents permission, to attend the party, celebrate and be safe in their home. I think the parents of the underage party guests should be the decision makers for their child's welfare, not the police. I hope the residents of Damascus as well as all residents Montgomery County come together to support their neighbor and friends; chances are this could have or will happen to them.
Thank you Mr. Karem and The Montgomery County Sentinel for being the ONLY organization to present this viewpoint. Outstanding!

Posted By: Paul Lucas On: 1/10/2014

Title: Don't forget evasion of privacy

The cops took everyone's cell phones so they could erase any videos that's why they took them ... but they didn't get one that was sent to someone's email ... it's all on video how this family was attacked and bullied by the cops great article mr. Karem .. it's a shame we all have to accept everything and anything police do and say because we are at there mercy ... The question is how do we stop it

Posted By: Paul Lucas On: 1/10/2014

Title: Don't forget envision of privacy

The cops took everyone's cell phones so they could erase any videos that's why they took them ... but they didn't get one that was sent to someone's email ... it's all on video how this family was attacked and bullied by the cops great article mr. Karem .. it's a shame we all have to accept everything and anything police do and say because we are at there mercy ... The question is how do we stop it

Posted By: Uninvolved Citizen On: 1/10/2014

Title: Law Enforcement Bullies

This unit has been out of control for a couple years now. They have developed their own culture because they have been unrestrained by management, and more specifically the chief of police. They operate under the guise that they are doing a good deed for the community by acting out against underage drinking and drunk driving but their methods are utterly abusive. The violations by the police of civil rights, and Constitutional rights regarding privacy and search and seizure are unprecedented here. These are not tough cops, they are cowards and bullies. Unfortunately, there are few consequences for the government except a large law suit in order to get their attention and stop such abuses. It's high time the Department of Justice reviewed what has been happening here in Montgomery County. Once that happens, management and the Chief will step back and say they didn't know what was happening. Just a matter of time.

Posted By: So sad On: 1/10/2014

Title: Underage drinking is illegal

Unfortunately for your point of view, the drinking age in the State of Maryland is 21. If you have a party where you serve alcohol to persons who are under the age of 21 you are in violation of the law. It is my understanding that there was a keg outside the basement and there were approximately 35 underage individuals drinking. This activity is occurring in plain view of the police. The fact that the party was on private property is irrelevant. The parents clearly were in violation of the law when they planned a party where alcohol was available to underage individuals. In light of the many young adults who have died as a result of drinking and driving, I believe the "snitch" is not a bad guy here. He saw a dangerous situation and reported it to the police. The fact that the parents were so intoxicated that they were unable to respond to the police in a responsible manner clearly indicates that they were in no condition to control the underage individuals who were drinking on their dime. Any idiot who reaches for an officer's service weapon deserves whatever they get. The people who are guilty here are the adults who supplied underage individuals with alcohol not the citizen who reported it to the police or the police themselves. If you don't want the police at your door do not violate the law.

Posted By: Kc On: 1/10/2014

Title: "Officer I know my rights." Frankly, I don't care son.

Police over step their bounds all over the country every day just like this. Liberal media will make every effort to blow a story out of proportion with no lack of hysteria. Believe not of what you hear, and only half of what you see. Many are too quick to jump to conclusions. I am a firm supporter of what police do in this country, though it seems they are ever more at the wrong. Great article.

Posted By: Moderate local On: 1/10/2014

Title: Agree, but...

...the references to Socialism and Political Correctness reveal the authors own biases, with no evidence that government or police democrats or liberals have anything to do with it. The facts stink enough without the author pulling a Fox News on it.

Posted By: BH On: 1/10/2014

Title: Great Article Brian

I live in Damascus and have witnessed the police pulling kids over in cars for no apparent reason. To add one more thing, last Thanksgiving break, I had my son and a friend of his with me in my car. I was driving on Sweepstakes road in Damascus and turned into my neighborhood, I glanced into my rear view mirror after I had already gone about 100 yards into my neighborhood and there was a cop behind me with his lights on, he came out of nowhere. He asked for my license and registration and I asked what was the reason. he told me I was doing 30MPH in a 25 MPH zone. Guess he may have been behind one of the skinny trees along the road with radar and got me going down the hill at 30...but he would not tell me. He went back to his car and was in his car for about 10 min or so, then he came back to me, giving me my license and registration. he asked me if the kids in the car were my kids...why the hell should that matter when you get pulled over for "speeding", one wonders. Later that day, I saw a car pulled over by the Safeway in Damascus with kids standing outside their cars and 2 cop cars, later saw 3 cop cars with 2 cars pulled over north of Damascus, all kids. Seems the police want to "bust" some people in Damascus because it is too quiet out here and not enough going on. Not to mention most people in Damascus don't vote for the people we have running the Socialist Republic of MoCo. Now I may be on to something there HMMMM


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