Last June, Baltimore police launched an investigation into charges that one of their own was "shaking down" street dealers in the drug-heavy Eastern District.
Four months later, the city police internal investigations division and State Police allege that Officer Richard Warble stole $340 from a man in a BMW. The man in the car, parked on East Hoffman Street, was a State Police investigator, and the entire transaction was videotaped.
Warble, a six-year police veteran, surrendered today to the city state attorney's office. He was to have a bail hearing later today --one day after a Baltimore grand jury indicted him on a count of felony theft. The indictment is part of a probe into allegations of thefts from criminal suspects and other people who were detained in the Eastern District, State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms said.
Warble, 25, faces up to 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine. He will be arraigned in Baltimore Circuit Court next month.
Warble and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Police officials sought yesterday to downplay allegations of corruption against some officers in Eastern District, a 3.2-square-mile stretch of the city known for its voluminous drug activity and related violence. Two other Eastern officers were accused Oct. 15 of stealing $347 from a group of gamblers on Broadway, officials said.
"Police Commissioner Edward Woods trusts the members of this department, but he will not hesitate to investigate allegations against anyone," police spokesman Dennis Hill said. "This does not reflect poorly on the hundreds of dedicated men and women of this department who serve honorably and honestly."
Warble became a target in June, when members of the internal investigations division heard "someone was shaking down dope dealers," Hill said. "The dope dealers contacted the police."
Police and prosecutors said Warble was working the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift Oct. 10, when a call about a suspicious man in a BMW on East Hoffman Street blared from his radio.
Prosecutor Haven Kodeck said the undercover State Police officer sat in the car, $2,000 in cash stuffed in his pockets and socks. Warble searched the man, took the cash and later handed $1,660 back, Kodeck said.
Warble asked the undercover officer how much money he was carrying, Hill said. When the man said he didn't know, Warble said, "Here's your $1,660."
Investigators waited for Warble to end his midnight tour, Hill said. He was searched in the district commander's office, and the stolen money was recovered, Hill said.
Warble has been suspended with pay.