Blacks request federal inquiry on police actions Bias is charged in Baltimore County

April 25, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

A group representing blacks in Baltimore County said last night that it wants the U.S. Justice Department and the Maryland attorney general to investigate allegations of brutality and unfair labor practices against the county police.

The Rev. W. James Favorite, president of the Coalition of African-American Organizations, described five incidents within the last two years that he said illustrated problems the department has with blacks.

"We have received several reports of gross misconduct by police officers," he said at a news conference at Morning Star Baptist Church in Catonsville.

Incidents included two cases in which black officers charged they were harassed on the job and one case in which a black civilian allegedly was beaten when he got into a dispute April 12 with four officers working a narcotics stakeout in a parking lot along Security Boulevard.

The alleged beating victim, described as a man in his early 20s, was "thrown to the ground, kicked in the face and ribs and beaten by the four officers before they identified themselves as police officers," Mr. Favorite said. The victim, whom he declined to identify and who was not at the news conference, was treated with seven stitches under one eye, he said.

In one of the harassment complaints, a female officer with five years of experience attempted suicide by shooting herself in the stomach, allegedly because of harassment at work. She survived and remains on medical leave, a county police spokesman said.

In the other harassment complaint, a female officer has faced a "conspiracy to drive her out of the department," Mr. Favorite said.

He said that a Justice Department spokesman gave "rather positive" reactions in initial phone conversations in which Mr. Favorite described the incidents and outlined the complaint. He said he plans to contact the state attorney general's office in the next few days. But he said that none of the victims would attend the news conference because they did not yet want to go public with their grievances.

County police officials at the news conference said that several of the incidents were being investigated or had been investigated by internal affairs officers.

The April 12 beating is the subject of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a police spokesman. The officer who shot herself is still on medical leave, he said.

"We hear a lot of mistrust here, and frankly, I don't understand why," he said.

He said that police and black ministers from the Woodlawn-Catonsville area participated in an anti-drug march on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago.

The department also tries to keep in touch with leaders in the black community through periodic community forums, he said.

He said that of the 1,529 officers on the force, 114 or roughly 7 percent are black. The department is recruiting more black applicants at minority job fairs and at area high schools and colleges.

The department received 75 complaints of police brutality in 1989, 62 in 1990 and 16 as of April 10 for 1991. It did not have a racial breakdown of the complaints.

Capt. Allan Webster of the Internal Affairs Unit said that when complaints are received, an internal affairs officer investigates, then issues a report to the commanding officer of the person being investigated.

The commanding officer then may decide on some type of disciplinary action, ranging from a reprimand to termination, he said.

Of the 137 brutality complaints filed in 1989 and 1990, nine were sustained, and the officers were disciplined.

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