LEONARDTOWN, Md. — “Listen! This is at you,” one female protester exclaimed from the middle of a crowd, directing her frustration at a St. Mary’s County County police officer, Captain David Yingling.
June 3, at a peaceful protest with estimates of up to 2,500 people in attendance, people made an effort to memorialize the wrongful death of George Floyd, 46 of Minneapolis, as well as try to make strides against racial injustice in their community.
Yingling, who was heckled by the crowd at one point for being on his cell phone, took note of his actions and later approached protesters to let them know how he felt while offering them an apology. However, Yingling later told TheBaynet.com that he was on his phone specifically to communicate with other officers who were on a shift at the protest.
“The intent of what I was doing was sending a text to other people at the event… And obviously, the look of that was bad,” Yingling said. “We are representatives of the community and we are from and of the community. So when my community did not like that I was on the phone, I did not like the look of that because it looked like I was distracted from what was going on and it upset me… The public’s perception of law enforcement is very important to us in our community, so I realized it was time for me to put my phone away and concentrate on what was being said.”
While he noted the importance of why he was on his phone, Yingling was happy the opportunity presented itself so that he could approach the crowd later on in the evening to express his apology and have a “dialogue.” But he still explained how much coordination was required by the sheriff’s office for the entire event.
“Understand that my capacity there was to work that event, and to help those demonstrators have a successful event… those were members of my community,” Yingling said. “Working that event requires me to communicate with other resources and sometimes it is very rude to talk on my police radio and try and coordinate different things going on. For example, we rendered aid to several citizens during the event who had heat exhaustion…there is a lot of coordination that is required for a law enforcement officer working one of those events, especially a captain.”
After making the apology, one woman can be heard on our live video suggesting to “abolish the police,” a growing call-to-action across the country. However, Yingling said that the benefit of living somewhere with an elected sheriff is their required accountability to constituents.
He also applauded Sheriff Cameron on how harsh he has been on seeking out bad apples in the department, and even how he has campaigned on being tough internally.
“I am very proud to be a police officer and there are bad police officers who tarnish the badge and do unacceptable things, and police must work diligently to remove those people from this profession,” Yingling explained. “If you remember the last election when he was running against other candidates, one of the big campaign issues was some of the other candidates were saying Sheriff Cameron was too tough on his police officers… Sheriff Cameron came back with the perfect answer which was that “these people have the ability to take away your freedom and so their integrity must be unquestioned,” and he holds the members of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office to the highest standards.”
Another protest has been planned in Leonardtown on June 5. We will once again be providing live coverage of the event.
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