A police union representing Howard County officers has written a sharply critical letter to police Chief Frederick W. Chaney, accusing him of trying to run a controversial officer out of the department.
The letter, sent to Chaney on Friday, states that Officer Victor Riemer -- one of three officers embroiled in the controversy surrounding the May 4 hanging death of Carl Jonathan Bowie -- is being targeted for "other than normal" investigations of police misconduct.
Riemer "is being singled out because of the recent allegations" surrounding Bowie's death, the letter said. The death sparked concern from some Columbia residents, who thought that Bowie was not likely to have committed suicide and may have been the victim of foul play.
Chaney vehemently denied the claims Friday and said the department has acted within its rights to impose disciplinary action.
Bowie and his brother alleged that on Jan. 5 they were beaten and kicked by Riemer and two other officers who were breaking up a party at a Jessup motel. The county state's attorney's office, acting on the advice of a grand jury investigation, dismissed the charges against the officers in August.
However, the police are still conducting an internal investigation and expect a decision on the Bowie complaint within the next month.
Since that incident, six other complaints against Riemer have been investigated by county police officials, according to police.
"It's really crap. Victor Riemer has become a real big factor in that political game in Columbia," said Dale L. Hill, the president of the Howard County Police Officers Association and the author of the letter.
"The attitude seems to be, 'Let's get him for whatever we can,' " Hill said.
Riemer was relieved of his police powers about two weeks ago and was assigned to office work, Chaney said. He declined to discuss details of the suspension.
"We felt it was within the interests of the citizens of Howard County to take him off the street," Chaney said.
Chaney said the seven complaints against Riemer -- five filed by citizens -- involve minor infractions, such as rudeness during traffic stops. Penalties for such violations is usually the docking of a day's pay, Chaney said.
The claim that Riemer faces heavy-handed disciplinary action "is not true at all," he said. But taken as a whole, the seven complaints are an inordinate number and further disciplinary action could be taken, Chaney said.
The six other cases are pending. Riemer and his attorney, Clarke F.
Ahlers of Columbia, filed suit against the department in August, claiming one of the complaints was unfairly investigated.
That complaint involved a citizen who says he was threatened by Riemer during a drunken driving check.
Departmental personnel complaints are not open to the public. However, Ahlers said that one of the other complaints is in response to Riemer's handling of a traffic citation, "and the other complaints are all about on that level of consciousness."