Pointing to a Maryland adultery law that dates back to 1715, Baltimore County police officials are investigating three officers who don't meet the moral standards of the department.
The three came under investigation for violating the state's adultery law two months ago, after complaints were lodged with the department. The complaints originated with the spouses from whom the officers are separated, said E. Jay Miller, a police spokesman.
Two of the officers -- a man and a woman -- are separated from their current spouses and living together, police said. Another male officer is living with a married woman not connected with the department.
The Maryland adultery law makes it a misdemeanor to engage in a sexual relationship with a married person. Violators can be fined $10.
"It is still on the books, and we can't ignore that," Mr. Miller said. "This is no different than any other violation of the law."
If the department pursues some action, the three could be charged with misconduct with penalties ranging from written reprimands to loss of leave time to dismissal, officials said.
Dismissal, officials added, would be unlikely.
Action against the three is pending in spite of a refusal by the county state's attorney's office to prosecute the officers and an absence of interest in off-duty lifestyles by other area police agencies.
Lt. Louis T. Caslin, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, was asked what he thought about police officers living with a person married to someone else. "I don't think that is for me to judge. That is between those two people," the lieutenant said. "We know we're police officers, but what we do when we are off-duty is our own business. In today's society this is something that goes on.
"I guess they have a legal right to enforce this because of the rules and regulations, but it is definitely not going to help morale. I don't think this is going to stop people from doing this," Lieutenant Caslin said.
Representatives of other area departments, including the state, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, indicated that no such internal investigations were active in their agencies.
"Normally, we don't interfere with an officer's private life unless it affects his job performance," said V. Richard Molloy, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
According to Mr. Miller, the Baltimore County police spokesman, all of the officers involved in the adultery investigation have clean performance records. One holds a rank above police officer, he said. The Sun has chosen not to publish the officers' names.
Even though county prosecutors who were consulted on the cases chose not to charge the officers, the Police Department continued to pursue administrative charges.
"We began looking into the situations because of the complaints," Mr. Miller said. "We don't go around monitoring the private lives of our people. That's not the desire of the department."
Mary M. Kramer, an attorney for the FOP lodge, said, "With all the budget cuts and furloughs they are experiencing, it seems strange that they would have the manpower and resources to go after this kind of thing.
"It seems significant that the state's attorney's office is not interested in bringing charges against the officers or anyone else," said Ms. Kramer.
"This in no way affects their performance as police officers," she said. "It's nobody's business . . . certainly not the Police Department's."
The attorney said officers should be allowed to handle their marital matters themselves -- through the civil courts, if necessary.
Capt. Allen Webster, commanding officer of the department's internal affairs section, said he was continuing to pursue the matter.
About two years ago, the department investigated two other Baltimore County police officers who were separated from a spouse and living together but dropped the matter when they separated, police said.