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Damascus residents seek police accountability following raid of private party

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Published on: Thursday, January 16, 2014

By Holden Wilen

DAMASCUS – As a result of the police department’s actions when breaking up a Jan. 4 party, friends and family of the Magas family are calling for officers to be held accountable for what they believe are civil rights violations.

Last week the Sentinel reported police had to use tasers and their fists to break up a private house party in Damascus that resulted in two people being treated at a local hospital and nearly two dozen citations for underage drinking. The family threw the party to celebrate their son’s 21st birthday party.

Paul Lucas, a friend of the family, has begun a letter writing campaign to Gov. Martin O’Malley, County Executive Ike Leggett, and County Councilman Phil Andrews who chairs the council’s public safety committee, in order to request action.

“The situation occurred because of the direct disrespect of our civil rights by the action of the Montgomery County Police officers,” Lucas said in his letter. “Our civil rights are not being respected and I am asking for the officers Jeremy Smalley and Deputy Sheriff John Durham to be held accountable for their actions for the events that occurred on that night at the Magas home. This is a plea to the chief of police and plea to the governor of the state of Maryland to take action.”

Lucas said if the police department’s actions are condoned by Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger, he requests action be brought against Manger as well.

“We as a community are not accepting this out of control absurd behavior and we want to know what the state, county and local government are going to do about it,” Lucas said.

Lisa Mandel-Trupp, a member of Andrews’ staff, said letters have been received and the police department is conducting an investigation. She said there is little Andrews or the county council could do to respond to the letters.

“Oversight of the police department is not in the purview of the council,” Mandel-Trupp said. “That’s done by the county executive’s office.”

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Leggett’s office has not received letters about the incident.

The officers who busted the party were part of a police unit called the Alcohol Initiatives Section, which is a part of the traffic division.

According to the Capt. Tom Didone, the team consists of five members led by Sgt. Mark White.

In order to become a part of the team, officers take an alcohol enforcement specialist training class in the police academy and apply for a position when there is a vacancy. Right now there is one vacancy, Didone said, because senior office Bill Morrision retired after 20 years with the unit. The current members have all been on the team for more than a year, except for one officer who has been on the team for six months.

Didone said the police department decided to create a team of officers dedicated to underage drinking initiatives in the early 90s after four Whitman High School students died in a drinking-related crash on River Road.

“The initiative has three parts,” Didone said. “They are the enforcement of laws, educating the community on the hazards of underage drinking, and deterring individuals from engaging in these activities.”

Didone said officers are trained to approach a party after establishing probable cause. Next, they go inside and seek cooperation so no one is injured. If the police determine they need a warrant they are trained to do so. Finally, they issue citations in order to reinforce that underage drinking is unhealthy, illegal and unacceptable.

When the police busted the Damascus party, the father of the family and one of his sons were both transported to the hospital with injuries after being hit and tased.

“Every time we close down a party we are potentially saving a life,” Didone said. “We can never say how many lives we have really saved, but we have made the safety of citizens a priority.”

Reader Comments - 1 Total

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Posted By: M. Baker, Germantown On: 1/18/2014

Title: MCDP strive to keep youth SAFE!

Under 21 alcohol use is illegal, unhealthy, and unacceptable. I continue to be confused by the persistent slant of reporting that portrays the police in an unfavorable light while continuing to purposely omit reporting the actions of all the parents and the youth at this risky social environment.
I have observed police as they perform the controlled party dispersal after probable cause has been established that underage drinking is in progress. It is a protocol that strives to keep youth safe so that they can return home to their families. How many crashes were averted? How many untimely deaths did not occur?
Why would any adult put their own children and other children at risk? Sexual assault, unwanted pregnancy, alcohol poisoning, fighting, concealed weapons, and car crashes all result in life altering injuries or death! I am wondering if the other families are considering lawsuits against this family.
Can you honestly support parental behavior that endangers lives? They are supposed to be the role models for youth. They are supposed to be the protectors. Teen brains continue to develop until they reach their twenties. Teens need guidance and positive encouragement from responsible mature adults. Do the actions of the hosting parents support these qualities?
Why is there such a pervasive attitude of disrespect for youth and the officers who are sworn to protect and serve? Do you suppose one of the party adults would expect prompt safe service from police if needed? Police strive to keep youth SAFE even when up against disrespectful adults.
Stop and think about the entire picture and not just the small snapshot that makes the news. Under 21 alcohol use is illegal, unhealthy, and unacceptable!
M. Baker, Germantown


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