Brutality allegations are raised Black group calls Balto. Co. police unfair.

April 25, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

A politically active group of black Baltimore County community leaders is charging county police with brutality against blacks in two recent incidents, and discrimination against black police officers over the last few years.

The Coalition of African-American Organizations held a news conference to make its charges last night at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Catonsville.

Although the group leaders said they had not talked with county police about their charges, or invited police officials to the news conference, several high-ranking officers did turn up at the church in the 100 block of Winters Lane.

The complaints did not identify victims and provided few details, but police said they recognized the circumstances of one alleged brutality incident that occurred within the past two weeks in Woodlawn.

The Rev. W. James Favorite, pastor of the church, said he had telephoned officials of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington to ask for a federal investigation, and said he also wants a Maryland State Police and attorney general's investigation of the charges.

Favorite added, however, that he had not asked county police if they were already investigating the brutality complaints and had not spoken with county police officials.

"We do not feel that police should be investigating this," Favorite said.

In one case, Favorite said, a black youth was beaten by four plainclothes officers after an argument and received seven stitches under one eye as a result.

Internal Affairs Capt. Allan Webster said that case came under investigation the day it happened, but the inquiry has not yet been completed.

He said there have been 16 brutality complaints filed with county police so far this year, 62 last year and 75 in 1989. Nine of those were sustained, Webster said.

The second alleged incident cited by Favorite involved the alleged beating of a black man who had refused to leave his home to talk with police. Webster said the details provided were too vague for him to link with any complaint filed.

James Pennington, president of the local NAACP chapter, said Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan should resign because he is guilty of "an absence of direction." Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger strongly objected to that, saying the chief has constantly stressed the need for restraint to his officers.

Favorite cited several cases of alleged department discrimination against black and female officers, and complained that too few blacks have been promoted to supervisory positions in the 1,529 officer department. Doarnberger said there are now two black lieutenants, two black sergeants and two black corporals, out of 114 black officers -- 7.5 percent. There are also 116 white female officers -- another 7.5 percent of the force.

Col. Jerry Blevins said the department is doing all it can to encourage blacks to try for promotions and to win them.

Favorite cited a female county officer who shot herself in the stomach allegedly as a result of stress induced by other officers. Webster said that officer is still on medical leave. He said the case was investigated by city police since that's where she lives.

The pastor also cited the case of a female officer who allegedly is being harassed and hounded to leave the department, but he refused to identify her or give any specifics. He did say she is not former officer Anne Fiedler of Catonsville, who filed a $9 million federal suit against the department in December 1990 for alleged harassment.

Finally, Favorite cited a 2 1/2 -year-old case of two academy recruits suspended for cheating on an exam. The white recruit was reinstated, though punished, after then-County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen asked Chief Behan to re-examine her case. The black cadet was not reinstated, although police said he was offered the same chance and refused it. He later denied being offered reinstatement.

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