This weekend, police officers enforcing a vaping ban violently arrested four Black teens in Ocean City, Maryland.
Police tackled and repeatedly kneed a 19-year-old on Saturday while arresting him for “failure to provide necessary identification” after allegedly vaping tobacco on the Ocean City boardwalk. Video shows police yelling at the man to “stop resisting” even as he lay restrained on the ground by at least two other officers. Police then arrested two other teens for disorderly conduct and one for “standing on private property next to two ‘no trespassing signs.'”
Videos of the police tasing and kicking the teens have gone viral on social media, leaving many to ask whether the use of force was an appropriate response to one person’s alleged vaping. Ocean City cops defended their actions in a press release, saying, “Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance.”
In May, the Ocean City Council banned smoking and vaping marijuana products in public places, in addition to its existing ban on tobacco use. Ocean City has billed itself as a “family-friendly resort town”—this is another way of saying that Ocean City is 95 percent white—and has taken to passing ordinances against things like vaping to uphold its self-image, as if vaping were more of a civic blight than cops manhandling teenagers. The city is home to many restrictive ordinances, including a ban on skateboarding, cycling, or rollerskating on the boardwalk outside of specific time slots in the summer.
When the city first put in place smoking restrictions on the boardwalk in 2015, the city manager said that police wouldn’t “haul people off to jail for smoking on the Boardwalk.” It seems times have changed.