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Chief says councilwoman should have been ticketed

February 07, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Police Department Chief Arthur Smith said Monday in an e-mailed statement that City Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean should not have been given a requested ride to the Motor Vehicle Administration when she was pulled over Jan. 20 for expired registration on her vehicle, an infraction for which, he said, she should have been cited.

"While this was a discretionary decision it clearly had the effect of giving an appearance of preferential treatment," Smith wrote in the e-mail about the ride Parson-McBean was given to the MVA office off Sharpsburg Pike after the traffic stop about 11:30 a.m. in front of police headquarters on North Burhans Boulevard.

Smith, who recently returned from a one-year leave of absence, wrote responses to questions he has heard frequently asked about the traffic stop. Parson-McBean was pulled over because her stickers showed her registration had expired in November, Smith said.

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He said in the e-mail that Parson-McBean should have been cited.

"Unfortunately the officer got the impression that her supervisors wished otherwise and by the time this was corrected, a few hours later, she did not wish to issue a delayed citation," he wrote.

A citation for driving with expired registration carries a $60 fine, Capt. Charles Summers has said.

No officers have been disciplined as a result of the stop, Smith said in a phone interview Monday. He said Parson-McBean has not since been cited.

Smith said Parson-McBean requested the ride. In the e-mail, he said she "advised she was on City business and needed to complete same, the supervisors made the decision to honor her request to assist her to get back to the City's business as soon as possible."

Smith said that some officers have felt they have to justify issuing citations since Parson-McBean's traffic stop. He said that he hoped his e-mail statements "will set the record straight."

Smith said members of the City Council do not have a special relationship with the Hagerstown Police Department "which would allow them to commit even minor infractions without risking enforcement action."

He explained further: "The reference to a special relationship referred only to a City employee on official business not to any immunity from enforcement action."

When reached by telephone Monday, Parson-McBean said, "I got the ride. In hindsight, if I knew any and all of this was going to happen, I never would have accepted that ride."

Parson-McBean said she was performing city business, working on a "constituency issue," the details for which she could not disclose because of the constituent's right to privacy.

She said she knows the difference between helping a friend and helping a constituent.

"I don't have to justify ... I know the difference," she said.

She said, "I flippantly said, 'Could someone take me (to the MVA)?' and that was jokingly."

When Officer Karen Hinchee approached Parson-McBean and told of her expired registration and what would happen, she said she asked "how I would get to the MVA." Parson-McBean said Hinchee told her she "could take a cab."

Parson-McBean said Hinchee told her Lt. William C. Wright III, who was the supervisor on duty at the time, would come out to talk to her.

Parson-McBean said that after she was told to park her car in the parking lot at police headquarters, she saw Summers, who was at the time acting chief, in the parking lot and "jokingly" asked if he would take her to the MVA.

She said Summers told her Wright would take her to the MVA.

"We were gesturing and joking all the time," she said.

Parson-McBean said after all was said and done, she got into the car and Wright took her to the MVA.

"It was a flippant joke in the first place," she said.

Smith said in the e-mailed statement that the next city official that is observed committing an infraction will "probably" be charged, but added, "However, as is the case in all citizen encounters our officers have the discretion (within the context of Departmental policy, the law and common sense) to take a range of actions to resolve the situation. Our officers were reminded of this policy last week."

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