State officials late last month decertified a Caroline County police officer who was the first responding law enforcement agent on the scene the night Anton Black, an African-American teenager, died following a foot chase and struggle with police.
The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission on July 26 stripped Greensboro Police Officer Thomas Webster IV of his right to work as a law enforcement agent in Maryland, according to Paul Starks, executive director of communications at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
The Star Democrat first reported the disciplinary action on Aug. 2.
Black, a 19-year-old resident of Greensboro, died of cardiac arrest Sept. 15 after he was pursued, handcuffed and shackled by several police officers and an aiding civilian.
An investigation into Webster’s hiring was set in motion in February when Maryland Matters informed state officials the use of force reports from Webster’s work as a Dover, Del., police officer may have been missing from his certification application.
Webster had been expelled as a police officer from the Dover police force in 2016 as part of a legal settlement. He was found not-guilty of second-degree assault charges against an African American man in his custody who suffered a concussion and broken jaw from a kick to the head by Webster.
While trial information was included in the certification application, other personnel infractions related to aggressive behavior were left out. Former Greensboro Police Chief Mike Petyo, who has since resigned, submitted Webster’s application to state officials for approval in 2017.
“The Delaware court decision finding Officer Webster not guilty was on the application of certification,” said former Public Safety spokesman Gerald Shields in February. “The other information on any infractions or reports about Webster in Delaware were not. As a result, our agency will begin reviewing that information. No action will be taken until the State Police investigation concludes.”
Later, Shields said the agency felt “snookered.”
It is rare for a police officer in Maryland to be decertified. Webster will become only the third police officer to have lost certification in the state over the last 10 years.
“Most times the police agency will dismiss an officer or an officer will resign” before they are decertified, Shields said in June.
Black’s family and legal team, which includes former state legislator Timothy F. Maloney of Joseph, Greenwald, and Laake, have vowed to seek justice for Black’s in-custody death in court – whether through a U.S. Department of Justice investigation or lawsuits in Maryland.
The other officers and men who chased and struggled with Black on the night he died include Ridgely Police Chief Gary Manos, who has been the subject of an internal investigation, Centreville Police Cpl. Dennis Lannon and Greensboro civilian Kevin C. Clark. Other Caroline County sheriff’s deputies were also involved in the struggle with Black.
Caroline County State’s Attorney Joseph A. Riley (R) determined in January charges against the officers were not warranted based on an investigation conducted by the Maryland State Police.
Webster can appeal his decertification to a Maryland Circuit Court, on procedural grounds, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Renata Seergae told Maryland Matters. Two years after an officer’s decertification, a police agency can request a reconsideration on behalf of the officer.
Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].