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Black Officers Criticize Police Union's Donation

A group of African-American police officers in Anne Arundel County said Monday they were "shocked" by their union's donation to a white Missouri police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen.

In a letter to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, which represents Anne Arundel's rank-and-file police, the officers blasted the decision to donate to a fund for Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Mo., police department.

"While we appreciate the support that the union offers to officers in need, there comes a time where leaders must take a step back and look at the totality of their decisions," wrote Cpl. Kam Cooke, a bike patrol officer and acting president of Anne Arundel's Black Police Officers Association.

The FOP sent a $1,070 donation last week to an online fundraising campaign for Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown during a confrontation in the St. Louis suburb earlier this month. The shooting sparked days of protests.

Cooke said members of the union were not notified before the donation was made.

"We don't need to be discussing [the Ferguson incident] here in this jurisdiction. It's an inflammatory incident elsewhere, let's keep it elsewhere," said Cooke, who said the letter represents the feelings of dozens of black officers, though it did not include a list of signatories.

Anne Arundel has 683 county police officers; 51 are African-American.

Anne Arundel police Chief Kevin Davis has also expressed concern about the donation, saying last week he would "agree to disagree" with the union's decision.

Union president Officer O'Brien Atkinson said the FOP will hold a meeting next week to discuss the donation. He said it was not intended to express an opinion on whether the Ferguson shooting was justified or not. Rather, he said, police officers often support other officers with legal representation following incidents where they use deadly force.

"This isn't about guilt or innocence. This is about due process. Everyone was clear on that when the donation was made," Atkinson said. He said after the union's board made the donation, he posted a notice on the union's members-only website.

In his letter, Cooke questioned whether the lodge had also donated to the defense fund of Joseph Lamont Walker, a detective from New Jersey who fatally shot a Maryland man following a road rage incident last summer. Walker was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter last month. Walker is black; the man he shot, Joseph Dale Harvey Jr., was white.

Atkinson said the FOP did not donate to Walker's defense fund.

Copyright 2014 - The Baltimore Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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