Frederick County Councilman Kai Hagen’s decision to interject himself in what appeared to be a lawful traffic stop being conducted by a sheriff’s deputy last month was wrong.
Hagen, who was with his wife in the area of U.S. 15 and Catoctin Furnace Road on June 20, said he pulled over near the traffic stop as a “concerned citizen” and wanted to make sure the motorist, who was Black, was OK.
The deputy recognized Hagen and told him to leave because he was blocking the road and interfering in the stop. Hagen said he would leave but not until the motorist indicated he was fine, which he did. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said the driver ultimately left with two warnings.
The situation came to light this past week during a live interview with Jenkins on WFMD. Hagen eventually called in to the show and the two debated what happened.
Jenkins told Hagen that the councilman had no business interfering in what the sheriff called the “lawful duties of a deputy.” He said the deputy made the stop based on a clear violation and Hagen should have stayed out of it.
“This is outrageous. Who in the hell does he think he is?” Jenkins said during the broadcast, referring to Hagen.
Jenkins, in an email to the county executive and council leadership, suggested Hagen broke the law, which could have led to the councilman’s arrest, or at the very least, him being cited by the deputy.
According to the accounts of both Hagen and Jenkins, there was no sign that the motorist was under duress. From all accounts, the driver remained inside his vehicle while the deputy spoke to him.
Hagen suggested that he didn’t think the driver was speeding, so that’s why he questioned the stop. As we all know, there are plenty of reasons for members of law enforcement to conduct a traffic stop. In this case, it was a tag violation.
On the radio show, Hagen defended his actions by pointing to recent nationwide instances of police violence toward Black people. And while there is need for this debate nationally, Hagen didn’t need to try to make that point on this particular evening along U.S. 15.
By doing what he did, his actions potentially put the motorist, the deputy and Hagen himself in danger.
Even Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer — a fellow Democrat — couldn’t offer much support for Hagen.
“I’m at a loss to understand what council member Hagen was thinking,” she told The News-Post.
A day after the radio show, Hagen reaffirmed that he believed he was in the right for doing what he did, saying his actions “seemed reasonable.”
Meanwhile, the sheriff reiterated that Hagen crossed the line and needs to go.
We don’t expect that to happen, and frankly, while we agree that Hagen was in the wrong, we’ll leave it to the voters to decide whether he deserves to continue serving the county. (Hagen announced in March he will be running for county executive in the next election.)
We do agree with one part of the sheriff’s request: Hagen owes the deputy, who once again appeared to be doing everything by the book, a formal apology.