A night’s sleep following an argument on local radio Wednesday didn’t clear the air between Frederick County Councilman Kai Hagen and County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins.
Rather, the two men held firm their positions on Thursday.
Hagen (D) reaffirmed his belief that he was justified in approaching a traffic stop involving a sheriff’s deputy and a Black driver on June 20, while Jenkins (R) asserted that the councilman was endangering the deputy and the driver by involving himself in the exchange, which took place in the area of Route 15 and Catoctin Furnace Road.
The sheriff brought the matter into public view during an interview on WFMD radio Wednesday evening. Jenkins said he was furious over Hagen's behavior, proclaiming, "Who in the hell does he think he is?"
Hagen did not dispute that he interfered with the stop.
The councilman said Thursday that while he didn’t notice anything “untoward” happening between the deputy and the driver, it “seemed reasonable” to check in on the traffic stop given that the driver was Black and given instances of police violence toward Black people that have made national news since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
“I didn’t do it as a County Council member,” Hagen said. “I did it as a concerned citizen.”
At the forefront of Hagen’s mind, he said, was Jenkins’ stance as a denier of systemic racism in his law enforcement unit and in units across the county, which the sheriff brought up on Wednesday’s radio broadcast and which he confirmed to the News-Post Thursday.
Hagen also mentioned a lawsuit from last January, after which Jenkins issued an apology and reached a $125,000 settlement after the sheriff’s office was accused of racial profiling and wrongful detention following a traffic stop involving a Hispanic woman.
Hagen said he doesn’t believe the sheriff’s department is racist, but he wanted to make it known that someone else was there for the stop.
“I support law enforcement,” Hagen, a liberal Democrat, said. “I do not think most cops are racist.”
Jenkins, a conservative Republican, wasn’t convinced.
“By doing what Hagen did, he’s conveying that he believes the sheriff’s department is racist,” the sheriff said.
Feuding isn’t new between Hagen and Jenkins, both outspoken critics of one another.
“I’m not exactly planning on having a thoughtful discussion about it,” Hagen said of his communications with Jenkins involving the incident.
Given their history, Hagen said the sheriff is taking advantage of an opportunity to insult him. Hagen said Jenkins “smells blood in the water.”
Jenkins, meanwhile, said he would’ve reacted the same way if another county leader had been the one involved in the incident.
“I would’ve come after any council member,” he said. “I would’ve come after the county executive.”
In an email to county leadership, Jenkins called for Hagen’s resignation from the council.
Hagen, who announced in March his candidacy for county executive in 2022, said he will not be stepping down from his seat.
“Not the first time I’ve been asked to resign,” Hagen said. “Won’t be the last.”
Hagen has yet to speak with any of his fellow council members about the matter, he said Thursday. The councilman said he is open to discussing the incident with his colleagues if they desire, though he won’t be going out of his way to set up a meeting.
Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said Wednesday the council doesn’t have the authority to censure Hagen. Keegan-Ayer expressed exasperation over Hagen's behavior.
“My hands are kind of tied,” she said. “I don’t have authority over the other council members ... I’m not his mother."
She said the councilman’s actions may put a strain on his relationships with other members.
“I’m at a loss to understand what council member Hagen was thinking,” she said.
In the wake of the incident, Jenkins’ email and the radio showdown, Hagen said he hopes the events will foster conversation around race and racism in the county.
Jenkins said that, for him, the incident is done, though he believes it may resurface as the county’s election season nears. The sheriff thinks someone running against Hagen will revisit the discussion.