Disciplinary hearing to begin Wednesday for Anne Arundel police officer who allegedly put his knee on a suspect’s neck

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An Anne Arundel County police detective who allegedly put his knee on the neck of a Black man pinned to the ground in 2019 will face a trial board Wednesday, arguing to overturn a recommendation that he be fired.

While the disciplinary hearing will be public, police department officials have declined to identify the officer and only plan to open the proceedings to a limited group of people through live video feeds at two police stations.

The Capital has learned that Detective Daniel Reynolds is the subject of the police disciplinary hearing and requested the trial board after an internal investigation recommended he be fired. The investigation was launched after a lawsuit filed in July revealed a video that showed Reynolds kneeling on the man after he was taken to the ground by officers who stopped his car in Odenton.

The board will be held at 8 a.m. at police headquarters in Millersville but livestreamed to the Western District and Southern District police stations. Around 32 people can attend at Western District in Odenton and 44 people can fit at Southern District in Edgewater.

The decision to limit public access to the proceeding brought condemnation from critics of police using excessive or violent force and from advocates for reforming state laws that protect the identity of officers facing disciplinary proceedings.

The United Black Clergy and other groups plan to hold a news conference during a break in the hearing.

“This kind of action from our police department can no longer continue without accountability,” Bishop Antonio Palmer, the vice president of the United Black Clergy, wrote on social media. “We are asking for the community to rise up!”

Police Chief Amal Awad declined to comment on the investigation or the hearing.

Daniel Jarrells claimed in his lawsuit against the department that he was pulled over without reason by non-uniformed officers in an unmarked car and was then arrested. The incident escalated and the officers threw Jarrells to the ground. One officer pinned his knee to Jarrells’ neck, the complaint claims.

Jarrells filed his lawsuit two months after a Minneapolis man George Floyd was killed by an officer who put his knee on the man’s neck in a compression hold. The hold is not taught by Anne Arundel County police, although there was no policy banning its use at the time.

A video filmed by a bystander shows Reynolds kneeling on Jarrells’ neck and shoulder area. What exact part of Jarrells’ body was pinned by Reynolds’ knee will be debated during the trial board hearing.

Police charged Jarrells with disorderly conduct, resisting or interfering with arrest and drug possession in February 2019. All charges were dropped.

In December 2020, Jarrells was arrested and charged in Prince George’s County with drug and handgun offenses. The charges were also dropped.

Days after the lawsuit for the unlawful 2019 arrest was filed, outgoing Police Chief Timothy Altomare suspended Reynolds with pay and launched an investigation. Altomare retired last summer.

Reynolds’ attorney for Wednesday’s trial board, retained by the police union, could not be reached for comment. No trial date has been set for the lawsuit.

“The unfortunate side of this is people always see things through the team they’re rooting for. And at the end of the day, I think the facts will all be presented,” said O’Brien Atkinson, president of the Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge 70.

Atkinson has said the video shows Reynolds was kneeling on Jarrells’ shoulder.

It is not the first complaint against Reynolds.

Reynolds was placed on administrative leave after he twice shot at a man who he suspected had a gun but never displayed a weapon in 2018. Neither shots hit the man.

A civilian filed a complaint against Reynolds in 2019 for punching him in the face and dragging him out of the driver’s seat and forcing him to the ground during a traffic stop, the man reported.

Then-chief Altomare said the civilian complaint was assigned to internal affairs in June 2020, according to an email obtained by The Capital.

Rather than accept the recommendation that he be fired, Reynolds asserted his right to a trial board. A panel of three police officers — a captain, a second officer of higher rank and an equal rank officer as the cop on trial — will hear the internal affair’s case for termination. The panel will then decide if firing is the proper disciplinary action for Reynolds.

Maryland made trial boards public in 2016. But there is no set standard or guideline for what a police department must do to make a hearing accessible to the public. Administrative hearing boards can also break into a closed session to discuss personnel records that are protected by the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

The department has denied a request by The Capital under the Maryland Public Information Act to release information on the board, including the names of the participating members or the agenda. The department cited an exception in the law for personnel matters.

Leaders of the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP and the Caucus of African American Leaders said the first-come, first-serve, limited seating during the coronavirus pandemic he violates the spirit of openness and transparency that Awad pledged when she took office in December.

“Anne Arundel County government and state government have all defined a public meeting during the pandemic as an opportunity to use the technology that allows people to be able to observe the hearings,” said Carl Snowden, longtime civil rights activist and the convener of the caucus.

“It should not be inconvenient for the public to watch a public hearing as it relates to the police trial board.”

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While the hearing board meetings are open to public viewing, they are not a public body under the Open Meetings Act, as outlined in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, police records manager Christine Ryder said Monday.

Jacqueline Boone Allsup said Award talked to NAACP members Saturday and seemed open to adding more locations or seats for people who want to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

Reynold’s trial board comes as Maryland lawmakers are debating legislation to repeal these protections. The primary piece of legislation in the Senate — introduced by state Sen. Jill Carter of Baltimore — was amended to retain and reform police hearing boards.

Carter’s proposal would have done away with police hearing boards altogether and instead, give disciplinary power to police chiefs or sheriffs. While being debated in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, lawmakers amended the bill to salvage the police hearing boards by recomposing them of two civilian members and one fellow officer. Carter called the amendment “absolutely appalling.”

The sister legislation in the House of Delegates, introduced by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, would also keep police hearing boards but add civilian members.

Maryland was the first state to enact a law laying out extensive job protections and due process requirements for officers facing misconduct allegations. After the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights was passed in 1974, at least 20 other states have adopted similar protections for officers.

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