ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals Friday agreed with a lower-court decision that Annapolis police officers did not use excessive force when they handcuffed and detained a 9-year-old girl cited for damaging property.
The appeals court ruled that the three officers used “reasonable force” to maintain safety and order and did not injure the girl in any way. The officers had testified in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in July 1997 that they were faced with an agitated mother and a growing crowd as they prepared to take the girl into custody.
In its ruling, the appeals court did order another Circuit Court trial on the issue of whether the officers turned the juvenile over to her mother “with all reasonable speed,” as required by federal due process laws.
The attorney for the Annapolis policemen, Jonathan P. Kagan, said he is fairly happy with the partial victory.
“These officers actually believed there was a potential for conflict,” Kagan said. “As for the due process, it’s up to a jury if 25 minutes is reasonable, considering the mother was right there.”
The girl’s attorney, Richard S. Gordon, could not be reached for comment Friday.
According to court records, the girl was throwing acorns at the wall outside her Betsy Court Apartments in Annapolis on an October afternoon in 1994. An annoyed resident warned the girl to stop and then called Annapolis City Police.
Officer Joseph McGeeney, Cpl. Joseph Gruver and Officer Adam Koch responded, intending to issue a juvenile citation, court records state. All three officers told the Circuit Court that they believed a new state regulation required them to bring the girl to the police station for fingerprinting.
According to Gruver’s testimony, as the officers prepared to seat the girl in their police car, a crowd, described as “large” and “agitated,” gathered. The mother hurried over, demanding her daughter’s release, court records said.
Gruver testified in Circuit Court that he feared the officers would have to “tussle” with the mother, risking the child’s safety. Gruver ordered McGeeney to handcuff the girl and place her, crying, inside the squad car. Gruver then radioed his sergeant and was told he could release the girl without fingerprinting, court records state. The officers turned the girl over to her mother and issued her a citation for disorderly conduct. -30-