The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission announced Wednesday that it would go forward with a decertification hearing on “a date to be determined” for Officer Thomas Webster IV of the Greensboro Police Department.
Webster was one of three Eastern Shore police officers involved in pursuing Anton Black, a 19-year-old youth who died last September during a struggle with police. His death has sparked a furor among Black’s family, friends and civil rights leaders. Black died immediately after he was held down and restrained by police and a civilian who put him in handcuffs and ankle shackles.
State officials, who must approve local police agency’s hires, are reviewing background personnel documents that were excluded from Webster’s November 2017 certification application. In question are 29 “use-of-force” reports that former Greensboro Police Chief Mike Petyo neglected to include, according to state police.
Use-of-force reports are meant to show all incidents involving a police officer’s use of force on suspects.
Webster was seeking employment in Maryland following a highly publicized case in Delaware in which Webster was on trial for assault against an African-American man in his custody in 2013. The man was left with a broken jaw and concussion, but Webster was acquitted of the charges.
Petyo said the certification application for Webster included all relevant personnel information, including the 2015 trial documents. But he acknowledged the use-of-force reports were not part of the package he turned over to state officials.
An attorney, private investigator and a co-founder of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black were on hand Wednesday to wait for the ruling that was made during a nearly two-hour closed session.
According to state law, the state cannot take any final action against Webster until he has been afforded a hearing in front of the commission. If he is decertified, Webster can appeal to Circuit Court on procedural grounds, Department of Public Safety spokesperson Renata Seergae said. After two years following a decertification, a police agency can also request a reconsideration of certification on behalf of the officer.
“I am very hopeful that the commission will take their process and procedures seriously,” Black family attorney Rene Swafford said following the ruling. “I appreciate the commission’s time spent on this issue and remain hopeful that the family of Anton Black will receive justice.”
Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected]