November 18, 2015
Email: [email protected]
(Princess Anne, MD) – On October 23, 2015, the Somerset County Maryland District Court’s morning docket included nine cases, six of these involved African American men, all students at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and all charged by UMES Police Department (UMES-PD). On November 23, at least three cases scheduled for criminal trials on the court’s morning docket will again involve young African American men who are students at UMES, charged by UMES-PD. For many young African American men who are fortunate to attend college, racism and over-policing tactics follow them on to college campuses. Unlike several college campuses such as Yale University and University of Missouri plagued with racial tensions on their campus, UMES is a historically black college (HBCU) with a black president.
The UMES student cases scheduled on November 23, 2015 stem from a gathering of students held off campus on the weekend before the start of school. The three students now face criminal charges and jail time for what started as an alleged “noise complaint” and a failure to produce a student ID by one of the students. All are charged by UMES-PD with failing to obey, assault on police, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. The students are active members of campus life activities and include captain of the club football team and members of the National Honors Society of Leadership and Success.
Court documents filed by defense attorney and former Baltimore prosecutor, Deborah Hines, allege UMES-PD violated the students’ constitutional rights by “busting in” an off campus apartment without consent, warrant or legal justification. A body cam video helps support their claims.
Traci Anderson, a parent whose son faced unrelated charges on October 23, which were dropped in court, wrote UMES President, Dr. Juliet B. Bell, asking whether campus police “wearing bullet proof vests, using abusive language, handcuffing” and using pepper spray is necessary on a college campus. In a November 5, 2015 letter to Bell, she states “breaking up a party and telling students to go back to their apartments or dorms is one thing-arresting students and pepper spraying them is another”.
A UMES town hall meeting held on September 23, students in attendance addressed their UMES-PD policing concerns to University officials. Students expressed concern that UMES-PD abuses its powers by often harassing and intimidating students and using abusive language. No known action has been taken by the university to address these matters.
“Given what I know now, I would not again entrust UMES with the education, fair treatment and care of my child,” wrote Traci Anderson, whose family comes from a long and rich history of law enforcement officers. “I would not recommend the institution to others without clear action to improve the policing environment on campus.”