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As the outrage sparked and cooled, the FBI came and went. The officers whose actions elicited calls for reform were cleared by their department. And while two of the teens head to trial Monday, Ocean City police say routine use-of-force reviews determined that no further inquiry of the arresting officers is warranted.

Ocean City police officials did not undertake the sort of internal investigation that experts say is the best way to get to the truth of what happened and decide if training, discipline or other action is needed — a decision that comes as law enforcement agencies across the country engage in introspection amid increased scrutiny of policing and its impact, especially on communities of color.

The town’s mayor, Rick Meehan, Police Chief Ross C. Buzzuro and other officials did not respond to requests for comment. The department provided some information in letters of response to requests for records from The Washington Post, but it’s unclear whether the town changed any policies or practices in the wake of the incidents.

Griffin had traveled to Ocean City from his home in Cecil County, Md., on June 6 to celebrate his high school graduation when an arrest report says an officer saw Griffin vaping, stopped him and asked for ID. The report states that there was a scuffle and that Griffin, then 18, yelled that he was going to kill the officers.

Six days later, Anderson, then 19, was celebrating Senior Week with friends from Harrisburg, Pa. He was vaping on the boardwalk and received a warning, according to a police report. When an officer saw him vaping again and asked for identification, Anderson refused and tried to leave, the report says.

Video taken by a bystander doesn’t include that interaction. But it shows an officer kneeing Anderson hard in the rib cage as officers pin him face down on the boardwalk. An officer can be heard saying, “Stop resisting.” During the encounter, four of Anderson’s friends shouted at and scuffled with police. One was hit with a Taser; he and three others also ended up in handcuffs.

In September, Meehan told U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s (D) office in an email, in response to the office’s request for an update, that the department “was contacted by the FBI who had been asked to conduct an inquiry into both use of force matters.” Meehan wrote that town officials had “recently learned that the FBI determined neither case rose to the level of a Federal Civil Rights Violation and that its inquiry is now closed,” according to a copy of the email obtained by The Post and previously reported by the Maryland Coast Dispatch.

But in denying requests from The Post for records of all internal investigations or reviews, department officials said that no investigations were done because routine use-of-force reviews flagged no potential policy violations. The department said the use-of-force reviews were only routine performance evaluations, which did not consider discipline or amount to investigations.

During a routine use-of-force review, an officer who uses force first documents it in a report, according to department procedures posted on its website. Then the officer’s chain of command and the department’s Office of Professional Standards review the report and sign off on whether the force complied with policy.

“The reviews are used for training. No discipline is noted in a use of force review,” Ocean City police Lt. Frank Soscia wrote to The Post, denying its request for records of the reviews. “If discipline may be needed related to a use of force, an internal affairs file is opened … the matter is investigated, and a conclusion reached.”

“One would hope that some activity of an officer that results in significant public concern would then prompt some soul searching by the department to say, was this proper or not?” Rocah said. “Maybe it’s proper, and then the department should explain to the public why it was proper and why the outrage is misplaced. And maybe it isn’t proper.”

Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project, said a routine use-of-force review is no substitute for an administrative investigation in response to a complaint of excessive force. And he said it would be inappropriate for a local department to forgo its own investigation just because federal or local prosecutors decline to pursue criminal charges.

The question of whether to criminally charge an officer is very different from the questions faced by a town or police department, he said. “You’ve got every reason in the world to investigate to see, should the officer be disciplined? Should the officer be trained? Should the officer be fired?”

This content was originally published here.

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