Probe to target training records at Baltimore jail

February 23, 1991|By Ann LoLordo

Fearing possible criminal wrong-doing, ficers has asked the state prosecutor to investigate wholesale irregularities in the training records for guards at the Baltimore City Jail.

"It's very clear the records maintained at the jail were in absolute disaster conditions," said John A. Schuyler, executive director of the Correctional Training Commission.

Problems in training the jail's 620 correctional officers and other staff were disclosed last month in The Sun, which found that the staff was not receiving in-service training required by the state.

An audit presented yesterday to the Correctional Training Commission, which regulates the training of correctional officers state prisons and local jails, showed that jail officials failed last year to give all of its staff the mandated training in the use of firearms, first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other areas.

In addition, Mr. Schuyler said, "there was a possibility that a criminal offense may have been committed." He was referring both to the questions on the condition of the jail records raised by his staff and a complaint that a correctional officer filed with the attorney general's office, alleging that the training records had been falsified.

As a result, the commission voted unanimously to send the jail records reviewed by its auditors to State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli. The records are supposed to certify that a local jail has provided annual in-service training to correctional officers and other staff as required by law.

Yesterday marked the first time the administration of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has admitted publicly that the overwhelming majority of jail guards did not receive the minimum in-service training required by the state. Last month, when asked by The Sun about in-service training at the jail in 1990, Commissioner Barbara A. Bostick said through a spokeswoman that the classroom training "has been going on all year."

But before the state commission yesterday, Michael Tidwell, a deputy warden at the jail, said, "There certainly were problems. We've gotten ourselves in a bad place. We want to come into compliance."

Mr. Tidwell conceded that the commission's findings painted "a very bleak picture" of training at the jail. He attributed the bulk of the jail's records problems to two correctional officers who previously headed the training department.

Jail officials told the commission that the jail resumed in-service training Feb. 7, had developed a plan to bring the jail into compliance with state rules and expected to have 80 percent of its staff trained by May.

In its review of the jail records, the commission staff cited 14 problems with recordkeeping, including lack of proof that correctional officers had attended either in-service classes or firearms training. The report also found that the jail failed to notify the commission that 62 correctional officers were hired last year. The panel tracks new workers to ensure that they receive state-mandated training within a year of employment.

As of yesterday, the jail also had not produced information requesteda month ago by the commission staff, including "whether individuals who are currently issued weapons were properly trained in 1990."

But Mr. Tidwell, the deputy warden representing Commissioner Bostick, assured the commission there had been no criminal wrongdoing by jail staff. He said the two correctional officers who were in charge of training until the training department was reorganized last March "totally misunderstood" the commission's requirements as to recordkeeping.

"I certainly don't believe there was any chicanery involved," he said.

In a later conversation, Mr. Tidwell said "there was certainly no intention to mislead" the public last month when a jail spokeswoman contended that in-service training had been going continuously.

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