Baltimore, MD – The chair of the civilian group tasked with oversight of the Baltimore Police Department was recorded on video refusing to obey officers’ commands during a traffic stop.
Bodycam video obtained by The Baltimore Sun showed Civilian Oversight Task Force Chair Marvin McKenstry refused at least 60 requests to provide his driver’s license to police on the afternoon of April 13, resulting in the receipt of a hefty stack of tickets.
The incident began when Baltimore Police Sergeant Terrence McGowan pulled up behind a car that was double-parked in the middle of the road.
He sounded his air horn a couple of times and waved at the driver to move, but instead of complying, the driver of the vehicle, McKenstry, gestured for the officer to go around.
“He was stopped in the middle of the roadway with his flashers on … That’s why I pulled him over. I actually hit the air horn several times,” Sgt. McGowan was heard explaining to another officer in the video.
“Impeding?” the other officer asked.
“Yeah,” Sgt. McGowan replied. “And [I] waved for him to move forward, and he shook his head no and waved his hand out the window and told me to go around him. So I hit the horn again. He wouldn’t go. Then she got out of the car, and I pulled him over, and it went downhill from there.”
The video showed Sgt. McGowan approached McKenstry’s car and informed him that their interaction was being recorded. And then he asked for the driver’s license and registration.
McKenstry, who is an associate minister at the Victory House of Worship Church in West Baltimore, did not comply with the sergeant’s request, and instead argued about why he had been stopped.
“Are you refusing to give me your license and registration?” Sgt. McGowan asked in the video.
“I was dropping off a passenger, son,” McKenstry said, and then went on to try to make a phone call.
When Sgt. McGowan stopped him from using his phone, the man yelled for the woman whom he’d just dropped off to call “Ed.”
McKenstry was appointed to the oversight task force by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, and his passenger was Danielle Kushner, another member of the civilian oversight panel, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Additional officers arrived, and the traffic stop continued for 50 minutes, according to the Baltimore Sun.
At one point, McKenstry got out of the car, put his hands on the roof, and told Sgt. McGowan that he would have to arrest him, the video showed.
Another officer on the scene attempted to de-escalate the situation
“You’re making this a bigger issue than it has to be. All you have to do is show your license,” the officer told McKenstry.
“It doesn’t have to be an issue at all, because I don’t have to be unlawfully stopped by a sergeant in the Baltimore City Police Department after leaving Judge Bredar’s courtroom. I don’t have to do that,” McKenstry ranted. He was referring to the Baltimore PD’s consent decree hearing he’d just attended before U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar.
“License and registration sir. It’s not an unlawful stop,” Sgt. McGowan told McKenstry.
“You can’t stop in the middle of the roadway,” the second officer said.
McKenstry argued with the officers and tried to get them to arrest him, the video showed. However, the officers did not respond to his antics, and continued to request his license.
At one point in the video, McKenstry replied to the request with the question “or what?”
“Or you will be subject to arrest,” Sgt. McGowan said.
“I asked you to go ahead and do that, so why haven’t you done it?” McKenstry asked in the video, sounding more belligerent.
“Because I think that you’re letting your emotion get the better of you sir,” Sgt. McGowan answered him.
“There’s no emotion. I sat in my car and spoke calmly to you. I was minding my business,” McKenstry replied.
The sergeant again tried to explain that he didn’t want or need to arrest McKenstry for the traffic offenses.
“What you fail to realize, sir, is you don’t need to go to Central Booking for this sir,” Sgt. McGowan says. “Provide me with your license and registration.”
After more than 60 attempts to get McKenstry’s license and registration, Sgt. McGowan returned to his vehicle to write citations for a number of infractions, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“I gave him two chances to drive off. And then when I did conduct the traffic stop, I gave him multiple chances just to give me his license and registration so that he could have a contact receipt and that I could advise him of the offense that he committed and he could leave. He didn’t want to do any of that. He wants to instigate a problem,” Sgt. McGowan told another officer on video as he sat in his car writing the tickets, according to the Baltimore Sun.
He told the other officer he’d heard McKenstry yelling about Sgt. McGowan not knowing who he was.
“That’s right,” Sgt. McGowan said. “That actually goes in my favor, because that proves that I treat everybody the same. I have no idea who he is. Doesn’t matter who he is.”
Sgt. McGowan wrote a $60 ticket for stopping in the middle of the street, a $50 ticket for refusing to provide his license, a $50 ticket for not having his registration, and a $290 ticket for “willfully disobeying a lawful order.” The video showed the sergeant as he explained the details of each citation to McKenstry.
Then McKenstry refused to sign the tickets, so Sgt. McGowan wrote him yet another $50 ticket for that infraction.
In all, he received five tickets totaling $500, Baltimore Police Spokesman T.J. Smith told the Baltimore Sun.
“He’s never going to admit it, but he’s going to get home at some point and realize that this was all foolishness, when all he had to do was provide his license and registration. And if he disagrees, and believes that he’s been stopped unlawfully, that’s why we have a court system. He can go to court with his tickets and request to be heard by the judge,” Sgt. McGowan said to another officer when they were back in their car, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“Situations like this make me love the body camera,” the other officer replied.
“Yep, because I’m not gonna even have to testify on this one,” Sgt. McGowan said. “I’m just going to play the video.”
Afterward, it turned out that the “Ed” whom McKenstry was referring to at the beginning of the traffic stop was none other than Inspector General Ed Jackson, a former colonel who served on the oversight panel with McKenstry and Kushner before he returned to work at the Baltimore PD in February, Smith confirmed, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The inspector is head of the Office of Constitutional and Impartial Policing.
The Baltimore PD spokesman said McKenstry’s phone call to Inspector Jackson “didn’t have any bearing on the outcome of the traffic stop,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
McKenstry told the Baltimore Sun that the traffic stop “was a misunderstanding that’s been resolved.” However, he wouldn’t say how it had been resolved or comment on his exchange with police.
“My focus is on the task force and completing that work for the city of Baltimore,” McKenstry said.
Smith told the Baltimore Sun that he was not aware of any of the citations having been dropped.
Police Commissioner Daryl De Sousa told the Baltimore Sun in a statement that he thought the sergeant “did a good job in a tough situation.”
“He didn’t want to make an arrest and he was very patient. This is a situation that officers encounter on a regular basis,” Commissioner De Sousa wrote. “We are working with Mr. McKenstry to continue to improve upon police and community relations. We hope that this encounter can be used as a positive training tool to help build relationships.”
You can see the video of the traffic stop below: