Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando is accusing a state police trooper of racially profiling him after he was stopped Saturday in White Oak for a minor traffic infraction.
Jawando, who is black, tweeted about the encounter in detail, writing he was on his way to the gym at 6:30 a.m. when he was pulled over and told he “stopped on the stop line at the last [traffic] light.” The trooper then asked him if the black Lexus he was driving was his and if he had any outstanding warrants.
According to Maryland State Police, the trooper regularly asks drivers at traffic stops if the vehicleis theirs.
After handing over his license and registration Jawando informed the trooper that he was a County Council member. He said the trooper issued a warning and then told him to “have a nice day.”
Jawando said he felt the reason for the stop was "pretextual." "It was a stop looking for other violations, drugs money or something. It also felt like he thought I was out of place," he said. Jawando added that it was not the first such experience he has had with the police.
“These stops are used disproportionately against African Americans and people of color and are ripe for racial profiling. Fortunately, I resorted to my ‘training’ honed over years of similar stops. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what happens to the young man or women who’s not a lawyer or a county councilmember, hasn’t honed their training on how to survive a stop, has an outstanding traffic ticket or bench warrant they don’t know about and how this situation could have escalated,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a statement police said the trooper was unaware of the Jawando's race or gender before stopping the vehicle and that state police policy forbids “bias-based policing” on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation disability or religion.
Jawando said the encounter makes him sad, but also determined "to try and dig into this stuff."
Statement from Maryland State Police:
Shortly before 7:00 a.m. Saturday, Trooper Shu of the Rockville Barrack was in his marked patrol car stopped at a red light on MD 650 at Cresthaven Drive. Trooper Shu saw a vehicle pass his car, cross the stop line and enter the intersection before stopping. He initiated a traffic stop and contacted the driver, requesting his license and registration.
The driver, Mr. Jawando, explained he had lost his current driver’s license and had requested a duplicate. He gave the trooper his expired driver’s license. While he was looking for his registration card, Trooper Shu asked Mr. Jawando if that was his vehicle. Trooper Shu asks this question regularly during traffic stops to help him determine if the person has a right to use the vehicle. During their conversation, Mr. Jawando told the trooper he was a Montgomery County councilman.
Trooper Shu returned to his patrol car and checked Motor Vehicle Administration records to ensure the driver’s license was valid. He returned the documents to the driver and issued him a warning for the intersection violation.
The trooper initiated the traffic stop simply because of the violation he observed. This was not a pretextual stop. The vehicle had passed and stopped in front of him. He did not know the race or sex of the driver before stopping the vehicle. Troopers on patrol are directed to locate those who violate traffic and criminal laws in order to promote safe driving, prevent crashes, save lives and apprehend criminals.
The Maryland State Police strictly forbids bias-based policing in all aspects of its law enforcement activities. Stopping a vehicle based solely on the race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or religion is strictly prohibited.