LANGLEY — Police Chief David Marks was portrayed as a bully and a liar during public comment at Monday evening’s Langley City Council meeting.
Half a dozen residents described interactions with Marks that they said involved shouting, unwarranted rough handling and unprofessional conduct. Some wondered why Marks wasn’t removed from duty after he was accused of an unnecessary use of force.
Michael O’Mahoney, a retired Seattle assistant police chief who now lives on Whidbey Island, told the council Marks shouldn’t continue as police chief because he’s “become a liability to the city of Langley.”
Others cited a charge against Marks by Bellevue police for unlawful display of a weapon in a road-rage incident nearly 20 years ago. Marks is reported to have yelled a racial epithet at a black man driving with his 11-year-old son and pointing a semi-automatic gun at them.
Marks, who worked in the communication center of the Bellevue Police Department, pleaded guilty to the unlawful display of a weapon, a misdemeanor.
Negative remarks during the council meeting came two weeks after other citizens came forward with glowing testimony about Marks’ ability to handle difficult situations and protect their businesses and homes.
Chief of the Langley Police Department for four years, Marks was investigated by the Washington State Patrol for allegedly engaging in unwarranted and aggressive handling of trespassing suspect Camren Procopio after he trespassed in the Star Store on Nov. 20, 2017. Marks was accused by another law enforcement officer of kicking the handcuffed suspect, causing him to fall face first on the ground.
Last month, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks reviewed the investigation and declined to charge Marks with a crime, concluding that a jury would be unlikely to convict Marks of gross misdemeanor assault.
Procopio, who has mental health and cognitive problems, has a history of trespassing in businesses and resisting arrest.
Another review of Marks’ actions is being done by a former police officer, Glen Carpenter, who is an expert on use of force. Langley Mayor Tim Callison said he hired Carpenter for $1,100 to help assess Marks’ actions and to review the department’s policy and training to see if anything should be changed.
A deadline for Carpenter’s investigation isn’t set.
As is the routine at council meetings, Marks wore his uniform and sat with other heads of city departments in the front of the room. He listened to a string of accusations regarding his behavior with little emotion.
Don Lashley, a longtime South Whidbey resident, described an incident last year in which Marks “acted like a criminal, used excessive force, was beyond unprofessional and should be charged with false arrest by the prosecutor.”
Lashley said he went to his regular bank to withdraw a large sum of money on May 16, 2017, and a bank manager became suspicious, calling the police after the two of them argued, Lashley said. He said Marks came up behind him with no warning and “grabbed my left arm, putting it violently behind my back while telling me to give him my other hand.”
The withdrawal of $12,000 fell to floor, Lashley said, as he was handcuffed “literally dragged out of the bank” and thrown into Marks’ patrol car. He said he was told he would be charged with attempted bank robbery.
He claimed the charge then changed to “disturbing the peace” which was dropped by a judge for lack of evidence.
“This was nuts,” Lashley loudly stated as he pointed at Marks, “and that man should go.”
City council members admonished the crowd to “be civil” and stick with a civility pledge that the council and mayor recently signed.
After the meeting, Marks declined to comment on any of the incidents brought up during public comment.
“I’m waiting for the report,” he said, referring to Carpenter’s findings. Marks previously said that he’ll respect and abide by whatever decision is reached.
Compelled by the mayor to provide his version of events, Marks wrote his side in what’s called a “Garrity statement.”
O’Mahoney, the former Seattle assistant police chief with 31 years of service, said he based his opinions on the six-page memorandum written by prosecutor Banks. O’ Mahoney just completed a three-year term on Island County Law and Justice Council.
“Marks can no longer be regarded as a role model for junior officers,” O’Mahoney told the council. He added that Marks had also lost his ability to adjudicate and act on future disciplinary decisions.
O’Mahoney commended the two law enforcement witnesses, Langley Police Officer Mason Shoudy and Deputy Thomas Brewer of the Island County Sheriff’s Office, for reporting Marks’ alleged misconduct.
“Without their concern for professionalism and the human dignity of a disabled man, this encounter would not have come to light and under the appropriate scrutiny of Langley’s elected officials,” O’Mahoney said.
Some at the meeting asked why Marks wasn’t removed from duty as he’s being investigated. Callison replied that his decision was based on the initial report and that it “did not rise to unnecessary use of force so there was no reason to suspend him.”
The city’s policy on use of force states that “officers should use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
Councilman Peter Morton said council members received a lot of emails asking why they hadn’t taken any action regarding Marks. He reminded the audience that the council sets policy.
“The administrator responsible for managing the employees of this city is the mayor,” Morton said. Patience is called for, he added, while the current investigation continues.
The city council decided to begin reviewing police policy and set a meeting for July 2 to begin discussing it.
This story was first published in the South Whidbey Record.