The Silver Spring Justice Coalition has been demanding police reform and accountability since a Montgomery County police officer killed Robert White, an unarmed Black man who was out on a walk in his neighborhood in Silver Spring in 2018. Despite small, symbolic steps since then, the County has done nothing real to make Black people or other groups targeted by police safer.
On May 7, 2020, police shot and killed another Black man, Finan Berhe, in front of his home. Mr. Berhe was in clear distress. He shrank from the officer, who initiated contact by shouting demands and pointing his gun. Mr. Berhe was holding a kitchen knife in the air in an empty parking lot. No one was at risk except Mr. Berhe himself. Instead of using de-escalation techniques, Montgomery County Police Sergeant David Cohen escalated the encounter and killed a member of our community. We believe that, had the officer understood from leadership that he would be fired and charged criminally for this murder, Finan Berhe would still be alive. Instead, by investigating the case on its own and not appointing an outside party to investigate, the police department is violating the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency (LETT) Act. We demand more from a County that loudly proclaims itself as “progressive.”
The entire County Council and the County Executive have formally condemned the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but not that of Montgomery County residents Emanuel Okutuga in 2011, Robert White in 2018, or Finan Berhe in 2020. Instead, they have congratulated themselves on running a safer police department. We demand they live up to these claims and institute real change. Please join us by sending them this letter. We will not accept this hypocrisy and devaluing of Black lives on our watch, right here at home.