HYATTSVILLE – At its town meeting on Jan. 6, Hyattsville City Council addressed police response in deadly situations and heard from one notable non-resident: a council member from Mount Rainier.
Scott Cecil, a council member for neighboring Mount Rainier, attended the Hyattsville meeting to make a public and formal request for the town to show his city the body and dashboard camera footage of Hyattsville police officers during the fatal police shooting of Leonard Shand of New Carrollton in September.
The shooting occurred after Hyattsville Police were notified of an armed man on the Mall at Prince George’s. Shand, 49, held two knives in a 30-minute standoff with Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Prince George’s County Police (PGPD).
Hyattsville officers were the majority on the scene. After Shand charged one officer, six officers shot at Shand, killing him. The incident raised questions of the police’s use of lethal force and their concerns for public safety in such events.
While the Prince George’s County’s Special Investigative Response Team led the charge in investigating the incident, Cecil saw his community looking for transparency following the incident. He told the council that while Mount Rainier provided their camera footage from their one officer on the scene to Hyattsville and the county for review, Hyattsville has failed to do the same.
“Did your police inform you that I made this request?” Cecil asked the council, to no immediate response. “If so, why did she not offer to let me view it?”
Cecil recognized that both cities were likely instructed not to talk about the incident for fear of legal liability, but also that residents were “horrified, confused and concerned by this incident.”
County Councilmember Danny Schaible, a friend of Cecil, spoke strongly in his favor.
“If an elected official requests access for our camera footage, we should share that camera footage,” he said.
Schaible said the council had seen the Hyattsville camera footage of the shooting and believed it was Cecil’s “fundamental right” to see it as well.
“His responsibility is to provide oversight,” Schaible said. “If the roles were reversed, I would expect Mount Rainier to share the footage they have.”
“Clearly, we want to be as transparent as possible,” Tracey Douglas, the city administrator, told Route 1 Reporter. “That is always our goal. But when something is under active investigation, the more we release, the more opportunities there are for inputs to skew what is going on. We want to make sure we follow procedures.”
The city council also pushed to authorize the purchase of weapons for the city police’s emergency response team. The weapons, Daniel Defense MK18 Carbines, would replace the team’s Heckler & Koch UMP40 submachine guns, which are currently at the end of their service life. Two of the team’s guns are no longer operable, and can only be repaired if they are shipped off to Heckler & Koch’s operations in Germany.
Council members’ questions concerning the weapons revolved around their intended use. Douglas and Amal Awad, the city’s police chief, assured the council that the weapons were meant for “high-risk situations.”
“We would never put a regular pistol in the hands of an officer going into a high-risk situation,” Douglas said.
The weapons were the choice of the emergency response team, by an “overwhelming majority.” Awad stressed that accuracy and safety were the two concerns the weapons would address, as the MK18 offers officers better range and greater stability than the UMP40.
The council unanimously authorized the purchase, which would not exceed the cost of roughly $21,000. That falls into its 2020 capital budget for new entry weapons, which is $25,000. The police are still considering what to do with their current weapons.
“They would most likely be destroyed,” Awad said.