Local police controversies

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The chaos in Ferguson has captivated the nation's attention and sparked conversations about police harassment across the county. Our area is not immune to controversies involving police tactics.

Just a few years ago, D-C police had to pay out 14 million dollars for mass arrests of World Bank protesters. In that incident, riot clad D.C. police pepper sprayed protesters and arrested hundreds of them. After years of court battles, the city was forced to pay millions of dollars to the protesters. A federal judge found that the protesters were simply exercising their first amendment rights.

Attorney Carl Messineo of the partnership for civil justice represented the protesters from the World Bank protests and sees echos of the D.C. case in the heavily armed military style response of police to the protests in Ferguson. As Messineo explained: "When the military looks at its target, it's there to destroy the target. Now a civilian police force is supposed to act with restraint that comes from the constitution and also just from good sense."

D.C. police are far from the only police force in our region that's faced controversy over these kinds of issues. One Prince George's County officer was convicted of assault and the county paid nearly $4 million after police beat a University of Maryland student in a 2010 postgame riot.

An undercover Prince George's county officer was fined millions for following a Howard University student into Fairfax county and shooting him to death. The Prince George's County police chief says his department has come a long way: "Ferguson is a far cry from Prince George's county and not just in distance, but from my perspective in relationships with the community. " Chief Magaw said during a press conference.

But many young black men around here are still wary of the police: "They see tattoos on us. They see dreads, us being cool, just chilling sometimes and just want to bother us sometimes so we always have problems" explained one young man. Others are hoping that tragedies like Ferguson help prevent the same problems in the future. As one young man in D.C. told us, "People need to remember this so it won't happen again"


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