Failure to resolve police misconduct claims points to systemic problems

BALTIMORE SUN |JUL 25, 2019 | 3:13 PM

  
Failure to resolve police misconduct claims points to systemic problems
Baltimore police officers stand near the perimeter of the cordoned-off 2100 block of Maryland Avenue, after a recent shooting outside Man Alive, a drug treatment clinic. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

So, the Baltimore Police Department is deficient in its investigations (“76 Baltimore Police misconduct cases have been allowed to expire since 2016,” July 25). A Sun article points to the fact that misconduct cases against officers were tossed out because the department’s internal affairs team allowed them to expire. This was attributed to “inexcusable negligence” to which I would ask: Exactly who’s inexcusable negligence was it? What is, and who sets, the “expiration date” for investigations into police misconduct? Is it set by statute, departmental procedure, consent decre, or the roll of the dice? In the interest of transparency, that needs to be explained to the public.

Another question that needs to be asked is this: Is the system for investigation, review and adjudication of such cases simply too awkward or ponderous as to facilitate an expediency in the investigation? If so, under the mandate of the consent decree, those policies and procedures are subject to scrutiny, review and changes as appropriate, if such changes are indicated. Is that happening?

It might well be expected that in a city such as Baltimore where there is significant opposition to the police, as was demonstrated in the most-recent riots, that there would be a number of accusations of police misconduct. Of course, those thugs who rioted in the street were not a majority of the citizens. However, they represented a significant constituency. When the administration and the upper echelon command staff of the department seeks to make the reporting of police misconduct readily available and an easy process, it should expect that there will be numerous cases, especially in a city with an anti-police attitude which, incidentally and sadly, also has emanated from City Hall.

So, we have a bottleneck, one that allegedly has resulted in the loss of these cases. While I was on the force, I tried (unsuccessfully) to introduce changes to the administration of discipline that would have facilitated a reduction in this bottleneck. Since I have been retired for quite a few years, I am not aware of the authority of district commanders in such matters. During my tenure, district commanders were very limited as to what they could do. In most cases, the best they could do was a verbal reprimand and possibly a negative notation in the offending officer’s file. Otherwise, they had to submit recommendations through channels that were then reviewed and decided at a higher level of command.

The agency has a procedure for handling cases against its officers which is the institution of a trial board. The board convenes and hears cases against officers and terminates the process with findings and recommendations that are submitted to the commissioner who either concurs with the findings and recommendations or changes them. It should be quite obvious that all allegations against the police are not so egregious that the agency will seek termination of employment. Minor infractions, where the agency is not seeking termination or criminal charges could be evaluated and the district commanders given authority to act in such cases. District commanders in Baltimore command operations that are larger than many whole police departments across the country and should be capable of doing this. By diverting these minor cases to command at the level of execution, the case load would be reduced so that trial boards would sit only on such cases as the agency seeks to terminate the offending officer. Officers who are disciplined at that level could appeal the findings to an area chief whose findings would be final.

Many officers suffer under the threat of a system that postpones justice quite often affecting the officer’s health and his actions on the job. Justice delayed is justice denied. If we want our officers to be fully functional, we must expedite these cases. No officer should be “under the gun” for months or even weeks waiting for the shoe of justice to drop. How effective is that officer on the street under such pressure and apprehension? There is a lot that needs fixing in Baltimore and this is but one issue.

 

BALTIMORE SUN |JUL 25, 2019, “Failure to resolve police misconduct claims points to systemic problems”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/readers-respond/bs-ed-rr-police-misconduct-letter-20190725-obbvxojen5ha3at67xug73wd7e-story.html

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76 Baltimore Police misconduct cases have been allowed to expire since 2016


A Baltimore Police Department officer stands on a street corner during a foot patrol assignment. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

July 25

 An ongoing failure by Baltimore police internal affairs detectives to investigate misconduct complaints against officers in a timely manner has resulted in 76 such cases expiring without any conclusions on the officers’ guilt or innocence since 2016, the Baltimore Sun has found.

Emails between Baltimore police commanders, obtained by the Sun through a public records request, show a pattern of detectives and their internal affairs supervisors failing to investigate administrative misconduct cases within Maryland’s one-year limit for such work.

Critics of the department have said its failure to fully investigate every complaint against officers is evidence it cannot be trusted to hold itself accountable and needs outside oversight.

The emails show some senior internal affairs officials repeatedly expressing frustration with both the system and the lack of urgency on the part of department leadership to address the problem.

Maj. Stephanie Lansey-Delgado, who was appointed head of internal affairs by then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa in early 2018, wrote in one April 2018 email to unit supervisors that administrators “have not been aggressive on getting the cases back before expiration.” Administrators “need to have a system where they are tracking the soon to expire [cases] for the entire division to make sure nothing expires,” she wrote in another email.

A lieutenant responded that such a system was in place.

“Well we need to work on the system,” Lansey-Delgado replied, “because a case just expired.”

The partially redacted emails show the issue is far broader than was indicated during a recent court hearing in which 12 cases were tossed by a judge for having been left unresolved for a year. And they expand on the finding this week by federal consent decree monitors that the department struggles to investigate its own, particularly when complaints come from members of the public.

While criminal investigations of officers can extend beyond a year, other administrative cases expire, including citizen complaints about discourteous and dismissive behavior and internal complaints about insubordination, breaches of protocol and serious failures of duty.

The department said this week that 26 internal affairs cases were allowed to expire in 2018 out of more than 2,600 complaints. The department previously said only eight cases expired last year.

In 2017, 22 cases expired. The cases related to a variety of issues, including officers allegedly making “inappropriate comments,” failing to properly investigate a car theft and failing to write a report after using force. In 2016, three cases expired.

An additional 25 cases have expired this year, including the dozen court cases tossed in May, the department said.

In a statement, police spokesman Matt Jablow said Commissioner Michael Harrison, who took over the department in February, “recognizes the significant issues facing our internal affairs operations and the importance of correcting those issues as quickly as possible.”

Jablow said Harrison is “fully committed to establishing a more robust, efficient and effective internal affairs unit to make BPD a significantly better department and help rebuild our relationship with the community we serve.”

Jablow would not answer specific questions.

But the emails provide insight into the unit’s scramble to fix problems. In October — the same month the Sun began asking questions about expiring cases — Lansey-Delgado sent another email noting the “reoccurring issue” and again urging supervisors to better track each investigation’s progress.

“Please review all cases assigned under your supervision and double check with your detectives and sergeants that they are aware of the correct dates,” Lansey-Delgado wrote. “Please also provide an accurate listing of the cases that are due to expire . . . and a status of each case toward completion.”

In a January email after another case expired, Lansey-Delgado urged sergeants to carefully track the expiration dates on ­cases in part because “it was deemed too difficult for the detectives to do it for their own cases” — a claim the department would not explain.

The department repeatedly declined to make Lansey-Delgado available for an interview.

The emails do not identify accused officers by name or outline their alleged offenses, and the department won’t release information related to internal affairs complaints against individual officers.

Commanders hold a weekly meeting called IAstat at which they analyze and seek to improve internal affairs work. It is one of several departmental efforts to improve internal affairs operations in the face of scathing critiques in recent years from Justice Department investigators, federal consent decree monitors and members of the public — all of whom have watched repeated corruption scandals arise within the department.

The Justice Department, in its report precipitating the city’s 2017 consent decree mandating changes, identified internal affairs as a major problem area for the department.

Late last year, the city public defender’s office called for an investigation into what it alleged was a widespread police practice of wrongly expunging internal affairs files of officers accused of misconduct. Last month, a judge tossed out a dozen internal affairs charges against Baltimore police officers because the department filed them too late under the provisions of the state’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.

“I do not grant relief gladly in these cases,” said Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill, noting some involved serious allegations against officers.

Sgt. Mike Mancuso, the president of the police union that represents rank-and-file officers, said the judge was right to throw out the cases, but the department’s failure to promptly adjudicate internal affairs cases does not benefit officers. The one-year limit on investigations was put in place to prevent cases from dragging on, but that’s happening anyway, Mancuso said — and not just in the expired cases.

Most cases in which officers are exonerated, or in which complaints are not sustained, are ruled on only in the final days before they are set to expire, leaving officers to “sit suspended or with a bogus charge hanging over their head for that long,” Mancuso said.

He said the department doesn’t vet the cases for legitimacy early on, as it should. He also said the department is being “unreasonable” with disciplinary offers when it does try to settle cases, resulting in more cases going before full administrative boards than ever.

All of that contributes to morale among officers being “the lowest I have ever seen,” Mancuso said.

Internal affairs is not the only area in which the department has struggled in recent years. Homicides and shootings have been at historic highs. And both the police department and the police union have suggested crime is out of control in part because the department — with a half-billion-dollar annual budget — is understaffed and can’t recruit fast enough to outpace attrition.

The work of the internal affairs unit has long been clouded in secrecy, both for the heightened sensitivity around the investigations it conducts and the state’s protective laws around police personnel files, which are not subject to disclosure under public information laws. Public defenders have accused the office of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby of further obfuscating the public record of police misconduct by withholding internal affairs files of officers they are putting on the witness stand in criminal cases, though Mosby’s office said it has increased transparency in recent years.

The department also has promised increased transparency as part of its efforts to change and regain the public’s trust under the consent decree. But it hasn’t budged on internal affairs issues.

Harrison has said in previous interviews that internal affairs detectives should be the best of the best, and that he is taking a careful look at the unit and its leadership. The department said this week that Harrison is “in the final stages of concluding a national search” to appoint a new deputy commissioner in charge of the Public Integrity Bureau, which oversees internal affairs.

The five-year Crime Reduction & Departmental Transformation Plan that he released last week said the department is moving forward with an “Internal Affairs Modernization” and building an “Early Intervention System” to better track misconduct allegations. It provided no timeline for those improvements.

The total number of internal affairs employees has increased in recent years, even as the total number of complaints against officers has declined, according to department data.

However, the department said those figures are misleading. Individual internal affairs detectives handle more cases than in the past because of a 2016 decision requiring they handle all complaints, including those originating with command staff, it said. Each police district’s staff previously handled such command complaints, which represent the bulk of all complaints, the department said.

The median number of cases being worked on by internal affairs detectives is 58, police said. Figures for past years were not available.

Baltimore should move swiftly to stop police misconduct gag orders

By BALTIMORE SUN EDITORIAL BOARD

Baltimore should move swiftly to stop police misconduct gag orders
City Council President Brandon Scott, who recently assumed the position when former Council President Jack Young became mayor, conducts a council session. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore City Council should expeditiously work to pass legislation that would prevent the city from silencing people who settle police misconduct and brutality cases.

The longtime practice of forcing people to sign gag orders that prevent them from discussing their cases not only stomps on their free speech rights but allows police to hide from their bad behavior. (We should also point out the city is still allowed to talk freely about cases, and does insofar as it suits its interests.) The cops in essence are not held fully accountable, leaving the possibility that they will continue to brutalize other people. As a federal appeals court said, it becomes hush money. Talk and you lose half your financial settlement.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unequivocally declared the non-disclosure agreements to be unconstitutional. If only City Solicitor Andre Davis, who plans to appeal, would stop fighting the issue. He and the team of city lawyers say it will hurt the ability to negotiate future settlements and that these kinds of clauses are used by other cities.

That may be the case, but there are also cities without such agreements, and Baltimore should become one of those. And the city law department should continue to work as diligently for fair settlements with or without a gag order.

Kudos to Council President Brandon Scott and Councilwoman Shannon Sneed who plan to introduce legislation today that would prohibit restricting people from talking about their cases. We urge the rest of the council to support their legislation, which was spurred by the court’s decision. As Ms. Sneed said, speaking about their experiences can help victims move past the trauma of bad encounters with cops. It would also show the city is serious about cleaning up a police department plagued by a perception of corruption.

The legislation would also require the city to publicly release details about settlements, something we also support. Currently, little is known about the cases other than the dollar amount, which must be approved by the city’s Board of Estimates. That does not go nearly far enough.

In a city trying to mend relations and rebuild trust between cops and its residents, getting rid of the gag orders would help build more transparency into the system. What exactly is the city trying to hide if they are doing right by citizens with these settlements? They should want to track bad police officer behavior and show residents they are taking responsibility when officers misbehave.

Transparency is not a bad thing for police departments that want to operate openly and honestly. Police officers work for the taxpayers and act on the public’s behalf, and we have a right to know the full details of any misconduct, including how cases are investigated and if the settlements go beyond a slap on the wrist. The recent case of the Gun Trace Task Force, where rogue police officers assaulted, robbed and took advantage of citizens, showed police officers can’t monitor themselves.

The 4th Circuit’s decision should bring hope to people like Ashley Overbey, the city resident who joined with local news website, the Baltimore Brew, to sue the city in federal court. She sued three police officers claiming they beat, tased, verbally abused and arrested her in her home after she called 911 to report a burglary. She settled for $63,000, but was ordered to pay half of it back after talking to the media. The ACLU took the case, and more than two dozen other news media organizations, including The Baltimore Sun, joined the most recent appeal.

Various other groups have also pushed for an end to the gag order during the last several years, including the Center for American Progress and the Campaign for Justice, Safety and Jobs. The chorus is loud for this change. It is about time it happened.

 

Baltimore No Longer Able to Offer Police Brutality Settlements with Gag Orders

 

The Fourth Circuit Court has ruled 2-1 that settlement money cannot silence victims of police brutality in Baltimore, the Courthouse News Service reports.

The case began in 2012 when Baltimore resident Ashley Overbey accused three officers of beating her during a confrontation after she reported a burglary in her home. Overbey sued and ended up settling for $63,000. However, the settlement included a gag order which had a non-disparagement clause.

un featured Overbey in a 2014 story about the city’s police brutality settlement cases, other publications outlined her story. Anonymous readers took to the comment sections of these articles to troll and make racist comments toward Overbey. She responded, defending herself. As a result, the city withheld half of her settlement money for violating the agreement’s non-disparagement clause.

Commenters accused Overbey of initiating the violence to score a settlement, and she replied, recounting the facts of the case. One of the officers accused Overbey of pushing him after engaging in a verbal confrontation, but Overbey accused the officer of aggressively barging into her apartment without announcing himself, pulling her hair and hitting her. Another officer joined and a third tased her. Overbey was charged with assault and resisting arrest but the city later dropped the charges.

The court took back $31,500 in response to Overbey engaging in the comments of these articles. She sued for the $31,500 and was dismissed. The Fourth Circuit reversed the decision on July 11. The two judges who agreed to reverse the earlier decision claimed the settlement’s gag order violated the First Amendment.

“We hold that the non-disparagement clause in Overbey’s settlement agreement amounts to a waiver of her First Amendment rights and that strong public interests rooted in the First Amendment make it unenforceable and void,” U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd and Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote. Judge Marvin Quattlebaum dissented.

The city argued Overbey was exercising her First Amendment rights by agreeing to refrain from speech in exchange for money. However, the majority ruled that the First Amendment did not apply to her refraining from speech, because her ordered silence did not protect any of the interests at stake in the case.

Overbey is not the only person who Baltimore has awarded a settlement in the wake of a police brutality case. The Sun’s 2014 article stated the city had paid about $5.7 million in settlements since 2011. In 2017, it reported another four cases in which the city settled for a combined $1.1 million.

 

 “Baltimore No Longer Able to Offer Police Brutality Settlements with Gag Orders”, https://www.diversityinc.com/baltimore-no-longer-able-to-offer-police-brutality-settlements-with-gag-orders/

Police officer charged with assault after allegedly using leg to slam suspect’s head into sidewalk

Maryland police investigating ‘excessive’ force arrest incident
Montgomery County police are investigating after a video showed an officer using the bottom part of his leg to force a man’s head into the ground. (@zxjustin_/Twitter)

July 9 at 11:41 AM

A Montgomery County police officer was criminally charged Tuesday with assault and misconduct after cellphone videos surfaced that appear to show him using his shin to force a man’s head onto a concrete sidewalk during an arrest.

The officer, Kevin Moris, faces one count each of second-degree assault and misconduct in office, according to a criminal information complaint filed by county prosecutors. Montgomery’s acting police chief, Marcus Jones, said the videos showed “troubling evidence” that excessive force was used during the encounter, which began inside a McDonald’s restaurant.

“The excessiveness of the officer, Officer Moris, actually slamming the individual’s head to the pavement — this gave me grave concern,” Jones said at a news conference Tuesday.

Videos of the July 3 altercation went viral on social media. In one 45-second clip, a group of Montgomery officers is seen standing over Arnaldo Andres Pesoa, 19, who was suspected of trying to sell psilocybin mushrooms in the area. Pesoa is seen lying facedown on the pavement, handcuffed, just outside the McDonald’s as he yells obscenities.

Moris can be seen leaning over Pesoa, who lifts his head, prompting Moris to use his right hand to grab a patch of Pesoa’s hair while thrusting his right shin into the back of Pesoa’s neck. The video shows Pesoa’s head striking the sidewalk.

While the video appears to show Pesoa resisting, it does not seem to present him as an imminent threat when Moris jabs him with his shin. “I felt like the officers did have that situation under control,” Jones said.

After hitting the concrete, Pesoa turns his head and yells that he has spit on the officer’s foot. At that point, Pesoa is told to “stop spitting” as Moris pulls the suspect’s shirt over his face.

“Mr. Pesoa did require medical attention on the scene as a result of injuries he sustained during the course of his apprehension,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

Efforts to reach Moris or learn whether he has retained an attorney were not successful Tuesday. A person who answered a phone number linked to him declined to comment and hung up. Online court records did not show whether he has hired an attorney.

Moris is a seven-year veteran of the department, most recently assigned to a plainclothes unit in the county’s Wheaton police district, according to police officials.

The union that represents county officers, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, declined to comment Tuesday on the specifics of the case.

“Without knowing anything more than what has been shown in the viral videos posted, the FOP will not make a statement without knowing all the facts,” the union said in a statement. “Officer Moris, like all U.S. citizens, is innocent until proven guilty and has a right to due process under law.”

The charges come amid mounting criticism of the incident from local officials and activists. Late last week, the president and vice president of the Montgomery County Council issued a statement condemning the officer’s actions.

“We are outraged and deeply saddened to watch the videos that show a young man being apprehended by Montgomery County Police officers using what appears to be excessive force,” wrote President Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) and Vice President Sidney Katz (D-District 3), who also chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee.

On Tuesday afternoon, Navarro praised the swift action taken by Jones and McCarthy and commended the rank and file of the department.

“It is important to reiterate that the Montgomery County Police Department is made up of men and women of integrity who pride themselves on high standards as they keep our county safe,” she wrote. “However, effective accountability and oversight are essential to develop and maintain trust between the police and our community.”

Several days ago, the local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice announced that it would hold a rally and news conference Tuesday night demanding that Moris be charged. Attendees were encouraged to bring signs with suggested slogans. Among them: “Stop Police Brutality,” “Not in My County” and “We Demand Accountability.”

The group gave an update on its Facebook page Tuesday.

“Tonight’s protest is on,” it said. “We demand systemic changes to MCPD.”

The charges were brought relatively swiftly and reflected the stern tone taken by police administrators after the incident. They suspended Moris of his police powers, moved him to administrative duties and launched a criminal investigation.

Jones and McCarthy stayed in regular contact over the past few days, according to McCarthy. On Tuesday, McCarthy’s office filed charges by way of a “criminal information” submission, meaning prosecutors made the decision without showing the matter to a grand jury.

The altercation outside the McDonald’s stemmed from an undercover operation into alleged sales of psilocybin mushrooms in the Aspen Hill area. Officers had identified Pesoa as a suspect, found him inside the McDonald’s and tried to arrest him.

“Pesoa became disorderly with the officers inside the restaurant and resisted the arrest,” police said in a statement. “Officers eventually removed Pesoa from the restaurant. While outside the restaurant, Pesoa continued to act in a disorderly manner and resist arrest.”

Pesoa was taken to jail and charged with drug possession, attempted drug distribution, resisting arrest and second-degree assault, police said. He was released after posting a $5,000 bond, according to police.

 

 

Md. demands public access to police misconduct investigations

Brandon Scott, Will Jawando, March 13, 2019

Our constituents want effective constitutional policing that reduces violence in their communities. But they also want — and deserve — transparency and accountability. The communities officers are sworn to protect, and whose taxpayer dollars support law enforcement, deserve to know that their local police departments are investigating misconduct complaints diligently and equitably.

In Montgomery County, we are fighting for the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act, which would require independent investigations of police-involved deaths. This is needed because there is a serious lack of confidence that law enforcement can police itself — especially when the stakes are the highest and a resident has lost his or her life.

In 2016, the ACLU of Maryland released a report showing that between 2010 and 2015, at least 130 people across our state — the vast majority of them black, and too many unarmed — died in police encounters. Eleven of those deaths were in Montgomery County, and 30 were in Baltimore City.

In the city, residents are fighting for a truly independent and effective Civilian Review Board that can thoroughly investigate the hundreds of police misconduct complaints lodged each year. Every day, residents are denied information about how the Baltimore Police Department investigates such complaints. In fact, the Department of Justice noted that “community members are unable to obtain information about BPD’s complaint and discipline systems at almost every step in the process.”

Other limits reach throughout the state. Currently, under the Maryland Public Information Act, police misconduct complaint files are considered protected “personnel records” that may never be disclosed under any circumstances. This means that if the police department fails to discipline an officer for misconduct, and the community calls for the department to explain its decision, the department is categorically barred from revealing anything in the complaint file.

We can fix this problem. We must fix this problem. The General Assembly is currently considering several bills to allow greater transparency in the way law enforcement handles allegations of misconduct. Regardless of what bill makes it through to final passage, we urge state lawmakers to honor the resounding and unambiguous demand we have heard from our communities: We must have access to investigations into all police misconduct.

This basic level of transparency is necessary for both individuals who file police misconduct complaints and the public, which needs to know what actions police take in their name. This transparency would help our communities know that their complaints of police brutality and misconduct are taken seriously by the officers sworn to protect them.

The basis for any healthy relationship is trust. Research consistently shows that communities of color have higher levels of distrust in law enforcement — often for good reason. A Pew Research poll, for example, found that only 14 percent of blacks had high confidence in police and 31 percent of Latinx people did.

Transparency would go a long way toward bridging this divide. It has been proven time and time again that crime reduction is tied to police departments’ ability to be transparent and open with residents, who are more willing to work with officers they trust.

Marylanders cannot continue to be denied the basic transparency that would allow them to hold their local departments accountable. It is time for Maryland to do better.

 

Brandon Scott, Will Jawando, March 13, 2019, baltimoresun.com, “Md. demands public access to police misconduct investigations”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0314-police-transparency-20190313-story.html

A new bill would shine some light on police misconduct in Maryland

(iStock)

A MARYLAND State Police sergeant telephoned Teleta Dashiell, a potential witness in a case he was investigating in 2009, leaving a message for the Somerset County resident to call him. The officer apparently thought he had hung up and was overheard disparaging her to a fellow officer as “some God dang n—–.” Ms. Dashiell filed a complaint, was informed there would be an investigation but could never learn the outcome. “Appropriate disciplinary action was taken” is the only thing she was told, thanks to the secrecy that shrouds investigations of police misconduct in Maryland.

Past efforts to change the law, among the most restrictive in the country, have failed, but there’s a renewed push being mounted in the General Assembly this session. Let’s hope it succeeds, because it would bring needed transparency to investigations that are of critical public interest.

The Maryland Court of Appeals, in a 2015 ruling on Ms. Dashiell’s case, held that the details of internal investigations into police conduct are personnel records that could not be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act. Not only does this mean that citizens such as Ms. Dashiell don’t know whether their complaints have been treated seriously, but also oversight of police by citizen complaint boards and other entities — including government inspectors general — is seriously impaired.

Legislation sponsored by Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s) would put Maryland among 27 other states that allow some public access to records of police misconduct. The bill, which got a hearing this week in the House Health and Government Operations Committee, would create a new discretionary exemption under the state’s Public Information Act for records connected with a complaint of job-related misconduct. The bill is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and other groups, including the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP. Some police groups are opposed and cite concerns about officer safety, privacy and reputation, but exceptions are the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and the United Black Police Officers Association.

No doubt there are occasions when a disclosure of certain information might cause unnecessary harm to police work. But the Public Information Act already allows exceptions for information to be withheld, such as to protect someone’s safety or safeguard an investigation.

Most police are dedicated individuals who signed up for a hard and often thankless job because they want to help people. But if there is to be public trust in police — which is central to their mission — there must be transparency and accountability.

Editorial Board, February 13, Washington Post, “A new bill would shine some light on police misconduct in Maryland”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-new-bill-would-shine-some-light-on-police-misconduct-in-maryland/2019/02/13/7d389c48-2fbe-11e9-8ad3-9a5b113ecd3c_story.html?utm_term=.1f0e28a3d423

Baltimore police expunged officer’s internal affairs files; public defender’s office calls for investigation

Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2018

The Baltimore Police Department had a widespread practice of wrongly expunging internal affairs files of officers accused of misconduct, the public defender’s office alleges, and it’s calling for an investigation into the department’s practices.

The issue came to light as defense attorneys have sought information on police officers while representing clients in criminal cases. Officers’ internal affairs files are largely withheld from the public, and attorneys must make the case to a judge that such information is relevant to introduce the evidence at trial. But in some cases, attorneys say, they found files were expunged even though they had not been eligible for expungement.

The Public Defender’s Office is asking for the issue to be taken up as part of the federal consent decree reforms. The decree was reached last year between the city and the U.S. Justice Department after a federal investigation that found widespread discriminatory and unconstitutional policing in Baltimore.

“This widespread practice of expunging [Internal Affairs Division] files that are ripe for impeachment makes us question the extent to which the BPD is willing to promote transparency, as required by the Consent Decree,” wrote Kristen Getty Downs, the district public defender for Baltimore, and Deborah Katz Levi, the head of the office’s special litigation unit, in a letter to the consent decree’s monitoring team in October. The Baltimore Sun obtained the letter as part of a Maryland Public Information Act request.

Downs and Levi also complained that the Police Department lacked protocols to provide defense attorneys with sufficient access to internal affairs records.

“We continue to aggressively litigate access to withheld lAD files every day in Baltimore City Circuit Court,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, however, what we now know is that the BPD lacks a system to adequately identify and disclose discoverable material.”

The Police Department’s practices “are in direct contravention to state law and undercut the integrity of the entire system and the transparency and accountability tenets of the Consent Decree,” they wrote.

Many community leaders have stressed the need for greater transparency from the Police Department and the city about officer misconduct following the federal racketeering convictions of members of the Gun Trace Task Force and new mandates under the consent decree, which include more civilian oversight into officer misconduct.

City Solicitor Andre Davis, who oversees the department’s legal section, agreed that it needs improvements in how it handles misconduct investigations.

“Anybody who’s been paying attention in the consent decree knows these are the kinds of problems the department has every day,” such as management and supervision, he said.

Lawyers from the Police Department have been working to rewrite policies for internal affairs investigations as part of the consent decree. This summer, the monitoring team overseeing the reform process said the office “suffers from organizational deficiencies that impede its work,” before requesting deadline extensions.

“We are working on it. It’s very frustrating,” Davis said of the improvements.

The public defender’s office wrote the letter after Levi represented Clayton D. Colkley, a 42-year-old Baltimore man, at his fourth trial in October. He is charged with second-degree murder and other offenses in what prosecutors have described as a contract killing of James “Buck” Bowens on May 28, 2003. A second man was also injured in the shooting.

As part of Colkley’s defense, his attorneys have sought to impeach the credibility of the detectives who investigated the case, Kerry Snead and Darryl Massey, by questioning them before jurors about internal misconduct charges accusing them of overtime theft. Internal affairs investigators followed the detectives, finding them at home or running errands at a time when they would later say they were working overtime.

Levi has argued in court that she should be able to question detectives given the credibility issues raised in the internal affairs case. The detectives were called to testify in the prior Colkley trials about the shooting investigation.

In a 2013 victory for the defense, the state Court of Appeals found the officers’ internal affairs files had been improperly withheld from the defense and they weren’t able to question the officers about the case. Colkley’s earlier conviction was vacated and his case was sent back to Circuit Court for trial.

But before Colkley’s latest trial in October, his attorneys found that Snead’s misconduct cases had been expunged.

“Our client never got a fair trial because he couldn’t ask the officers about this theft ring that they engaged in and were found to have committed together. For the Police Department to then expunge those when the case comes back for reversal isn’t just fundamentally unfair, it’s not legal,” Levi said.

”Mr. Colkley has been siting in jail for 15 years without a fair trial, and he’s most recently been denied a bail review hearing,” Levi said.

More concerning, Levi said, is that the practice of wrongly expunging officers’ records appears to have occurred in dozens of other cases, and possibly more, following a hearing questioning BPD personnel about the practice.

“We asked the Police Department and the state’s attorney’s office to come forward and explain how this expungement could happen and what they brought were documents showing at least 27 cases where they changed a finding to administratively closed, which gave them the inappropriate pathway to expungement,” Levi said.

When an officer is accused of wrongdoing, he or she is investigated by officers from internal affairs, who might find a complaint sustained or not sustained. When cases are sustained, the internal affairs investigators will recommend discipline. Officers can accept the finding and any discipline or elect to go before a trial board, which is made up of three police officers. The trial board can recommend discipline, including dismissal, but the police commissioner ultimately has the final say.

Officers can seek to have cases expunged when cases are not sustained by internal affairs investigators, or when they are acquitted by a trial board. They cannot get a sustained case expunged, Levi said.

At pre-trial hearings in the Colkley case, Levi, prosecutors and attorneys for the Police Department sparred over whether Snead’s case should have been expunged. Prosecutors and attorneys for the police department have said Snead’s sustained complaints, which were not heard by a trial board, were later “administratively closed.”

Levi said state law does not recognize the “administratively closed” designation.

Lawyers for the department conceded that expungement polices have not always been clear, and expungements have not been extensively documented.

Daniel C. Beck, the chief of the Police Department’s legal affairs section, attempted to explain the practice at a hearing before Colkley’s trial in front of Baltimore Circuit Judge Althea Handy.

“The department clearly, in its historic practices, treated ‘administratively closed’ as an ‘unsustained’ finding, and therefore believed that that is subject to expungement,” Beck said, according to a recording of the hearing.

During an earlier hearing in the case, Patrick Seidel, who is prosecuting Colkley, argued that the designation of “administratively closed” meant the end of action. But Handy said, “then that should be in the statute.”

Colkley’s trial in October ended in a mistrial. Later that month, Levi and Downs submitted the letter to the consent decree monitoring team, asking them to evaluate the disclosure and expungement issues.

Ken Thompson, the head of the court-appointed consent decree monitoring team, would not comment on the Colkley case, but he said, “We are revisiting a number of internal affairs cases in connection with the overall assessments of the consent decree.”

Next year, the U.S. Justice Department, the Police Department and the city are expected to take up what’s known as the “Brady/Giglio protocol,” which refers to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that require prosecutors to disclose information that could benefit the defense — including any evidence that might exonerate the defendant or information that might impeach the credibility of the state’s witness, such as a police officer.

The consent decree requires the BPD to “eliminate policies that authorize the expungement of records where an employee accepts discipline,” and prohibits the use of “administratively closed” findings.

Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office, declined to comment on Colkley’s case, citing the ongoing case, and said that the office is not involved in the expungement process.

“The policy for expunging BPD internal affairs files is an administrative process developed by BPD and the Baltimore City Solicitor. Our agency has no involvement in this internal procedure, which does not impact discovery in criminal cases.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Levi and Downs this month also addressed the state commission created to evaluate the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, asking the panel to recommend measures that would improve transparency surrounding officer misconduct. They noted other jurisdictions around the country that have made internal affairs files more accessible to defense attorneys. Levi spoke of the Colkley case, and the “illegal expungement process.”

Colkley has another trial date scheduled for January.

Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2018, “Baltimore police expunged officer’s internal affairs files; public defender’s office calls for investigation”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-internal-affairs-files-expunged-20181015-story.html

Baltimore police officer accused of planting drugs in body camera footage says he was doing ‘documentation’

Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun, November 8, 2018,

A Baltimore police officer whose body camera showed him placing a soup can with drugs inside in a trash-strewn lot said the footage was intended to serve as a re-creation of how he first found the drugs for “documentation” purposes.

Officer Richard Pinheiro Jr., 30, said he forgot to turn on his body-worn camera when he first found the drugs in a lot in Southwest Baltimore in January 2017. He decided to return them to the area, activate his camera and then retrace his steps to show how he found the evidence.

Pinheiro was one of several officers who testified in his defense in his case Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court. He is charged with fabricating evidence, a misdemeanor that carries up to three years’ imprisonment, and misconduct in office, for which the court is free to choose any penalty. Several colleagues, including his former partner, who is now an Anne Arundel County police officer, and the sergeant who supervises the Baltimore Police marine unit, where Pinheiro has worked as a diver, also testified to his integrity.

The footage was made public months after the incident by the public defender’s office, and drew national attention. The video was one of three raised in 2017 that defense attorneys said depicted questionable activity by officers.

Pinheiro described how he and other officers were searching for evidence after a drug transaction in the area. The group had already located a “pack” of drugs, which Pinheiro said was captured on their body cameras, but they continued to search the area for additional drugs. He said he followed tracks to the alleyway and found the soup can within an arm’s reach of where he was standing. He walked back to the group of officers who he said were about 30 feet away and told them what he had found but also realized he had made a mistake.

“Dang, I forgot to turn my camera on,” he said on the stand.

The footage shows him placing the can on the ground because the body-worn cameras automatically recorded before they are activated. After placing the can on the ground, Pinheiro walks to the street, and flips his camera on, and is then heard saying, “I’m gonna go check here.”

His attorney, Chaz R. Ball, asked him why Pinheiro then decided to re-create the footage, rather then notifying someone.

“For documentation purposes,” he said, adding that he did not want to face “repercussions from the agency.”

Ball asked him whether anything captured on the video he made was different from when he first discovered the drugs.

“Absolutely not,” Pinheiro responded.

Pinheiro said he was not the arresting officer in the case, did not write the statement of probable cause and did not file an incident report in the case. He said he had told the group of officers on the scene he was re-creating the video, and believed the arresting officer was present and therefore did not attempt to report the incident further.

“I could have sworn he was there,” Pinheiro said later during cross-examination. Pinheiro’s explanation of the footage, however, was not noted in the statement of probable cause or elsewhere.

“I didn’t honestly know that I had to” provide narration or notification about the “documentation, he told Assistant State’s Attorney Stacy Ann Llewellyn, who grilled him about why he never notified anyone of his actions, including the prosecutors in the drug case in which the video was first flagged by attorneys.

Pinheiro said he continued work on other cases and didn’t think much about the case until he received a call from the prosecutor in the defendant’s drug case.

Jay Malik, an assistant state’s attorney, testified the day before that Pinheiro “definitely confirmed that he did not plant anything.”

But Llewellyn argued that when her colleague called Pinheiro seeking an explanation, she asked him whether he was planting evidence or if it had been an attempt to re-create the discovery. She said the officer merely chose the less-serious option.

She made the arguments after Pinheiro’s attorneys made a motion for an acquittal, arguing the state lacked evidence for a criminal case.

Michael Belsky said his client maybe could’ve handled the situation better, but that the error did not rise to criminal charges. He said his client did not intend any wrongdoing, and immediately admitted to re-creating the video when asked about it by Malik. Judge Melissa Phinn denied the motion.

During his testimony, Pinheiro said officers are trained to document evidence, and in situations such as executing a search warrant, when drugs or guns are found, they will place the item in its original position to document it.

He also testified that his body-camera training was very brief, and mainly covered how to operate the camera and instructing the officers to turn the camera on when interacting with the community.

Sgt. Josh Rosenblatt, the police academy’s head of legal instruction, who has trained officers on policies regarding body-worn cameras, said officers were never instructed to re-create how they found evidence.

Rosenblatt, who also testified Thursday, said officers are instructed to document when a camera is off but should have been on, and that could include the officer speaking on the video, explaining the incident.

“You need to document it somehow,” he said.

Rosenblatt said the training and policies have been refined since the department began issuing body-worn cameras, but noted that training in 2016 was largely focused on “investigation and enforcement actions.”

“The policy was imperfect. … It didn’t cover all situations,” he said.

Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning.

Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun, November 8, 2018, “Baltimore police officer accused of planting drugs in body camera footage says he was doing ‘documentation'”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-pinheiro-day-two-20181108-story.html

Maryland police officer charged with raping woman he pulled over

An officer has been charged after he allegedly raped a woman he pulled over last Thursday, police say.

Prince George’s Police chief Hank Stawinski released surveillance video from a business in the area that shows a cruiser activating its emergency lights around 1 a.m. that morning in Langley Park, Maryland. Stawinski said he believes the video captures the beginning of the incident in which Prince George’s County officer Ryan Macklin allegedly pulled over a woman, and forced her to perform a sex act while they were both in her car in a nearby parking lot.

Macklin was arrested Monday and has been charged with five counts including rape, assault and sex offense. Macklin has been suspended without pay, Stawinski said at a Monday press conference.

Macklin was in uniform, on duty and in a marked cruiser at the time, Prince George’s Count Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan told CBS affiliate WUSA9 reports.

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UPDATE: Police release mugshot of PG officer accused of raping woman at traffic stop. Sources tell WUSA9, Ryan Macklin’s ID was found in victim’s car. @wusa9

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Stawinski said the woman came to a police station with the encouragement of friends several hours after the incident. He said his department is investigating not as an act of police misconduct, but as a crime committed by a police officer.

Stawinski said there had been previous concerns that the woman was targeted for her immigration status or for her personal history, but said he doesn’t believe that to be the case. He said he believes there would have been no way for the officer to know any information about the woman when he pulled her over, and that she was likely targeted because she was driving alone at night.

Stawinski said information was previously leaked to the media in a “deliberate attempt to undermine” the investigation. He didn’t specify what the information was.

“If I find out who leaked this information, they will be dealt with in the harshest possible manner,” Stawinski said.