‘Brotherhood of the badge’ corrupts Baltimore Co. Police
On an afternoon last October, April Tyler exited Parkville High School to meet her mother. As she walked with a friend after dismissal, a police officer pulled his car next to her and ordered her to stop loitering. Knowing she wasn’t, she told the officer she was waiting to get a ride from her mother and continued to walk. “I’m not done with you yet!” he shouted.
After getting out of his car, he grabbed April by her backpack and hurled her back, spraining her shoulder and leaving contusions on her arm. His verbal barrage only ceased when the father of the friend confronted the officer and April’s mother arrived. Frightened by the officer’s violent behavior, April’s mother, Bobbie Stipa, called the police. Without following proper procedure or getting the names of those involved in the incident, the officer leaped into his car and sped off before police arrived.
April and her mother went to the local precinct to file a complaint where they encountered obstacle after obstacle. No one wanted to speak to them; the officer’s supervisor wasn’t available; and no one photographed April’s injuries. They were later notified that Officer Matthew Sayenga was pressing charges — including loitering, disorderly conduct and disrupting an investigation — against April.
The case first went before a Juvenile Arbitration intake officer, who found the charges ridiculous. Sayenga later appealed the decision, sending it before a judge.
Officer Sayenga, a 12-year veteran whose physical appearance and erratic behavior coincide with the side effects of steroid use, failed to appear in court and the hearing was rescheduled — twice. If April had failed to appear in court an arrest warrant would have been issued for her.
The judge dismissed the case after April’s attorney, Michael P. May, a former police officer, caught Sayenga in lie after lie: April couldn’t have possibly been loitering since the incident occurred five minutes after school had let out; no investigation was being conducted; and she wasn’t arrested, inferring she hadn’t been disruptive.
April Tyler is one of three daughters of a single mom, a good student, and my cousin. This young woman with no criminal history was the victim of an unprovoked attack by a man who belongs to a band we are taught to trust at an early age.
“Integrity, Fairness, Service” is the mantra of the Baltimore County police. It is a promise to themselves and to the public. When members of that department fail to follow such a promise they should not be allowed to wear the badge.
We must not view those officers sworn to protect us as just as dangerous as the criminals they put behind bars. When we see a police officer we shouldn’t shudder, but feel safe.
Officer Sayenga and those who have stood behind him ought to be ashamed; his behavior has not only tarnished his badge, but the badges of every officer in the Baltimore County Police Department.
Officers of the law are meant to act as protectors, not bullies. They answer to those whom they have sworn to protect and whose tax dollars allow them to do so. Until the brotherhood mentality plaguing departments across this state and nation is cured, incidents such as my cousin’s will continue to be viewed with little concern.
“Integrity, Fairness, Service”: It will be a fine day when those words mean something. At the time of this article’s publication, Officer Sayenga is still on active duty.
Justin Snow is a former Baltimore Examiner editorial page intern and will be a freshman English major at the University of Maryland in the fall. He can be reached at email@example.com.