5 drug officers notified police probe is under way Criminal charges dropped last week

April 29, 1992|By Michael James and Roger Twigg | Michael James and Roger Twigg,Staff Writers

Five Baltimore narcotics officers were notified yesterday that they are being investigated by their supervisors, who are accusing them of botching drug raids and discrediting the police force.

The notification to seek administrative charges is the latest in the ongoing saga surrounding the officers, who have been on the run from trouble ever since coming up empty-handed after a drug raid last summer at the home of a relative of city Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Just one week ago, the officers were celebrating Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms' decision to drop criminal perjury charges against them after a Baltimore Circuit Court judge said the cases were weak.

The officers -- Nicholas S. Constantine, Bernard G. Douglas, Efren E. Edwards, Chris A. Wade and John C. Mohr Jr. -- could possibly face three counts of police department misconduct. If found guilty of any of the charges, the officers could face punishment ranging from a loss in pay to dismissal.

"We're appalled. We think it's a violation of their due process," said Henry L. Belsky, an attorney representing the Fraternal Order of PoliceLodge 3, which provided defense counsel for the officers.

"Some of these guys were Policemen of the Year. They've placed them under undue hardship. There are no benefits about being a cop today except that they give you great funerals," Mr. Belsky said.

Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman, said the officers are being investigated for misrepresenting facts in a search and seizure warrant, mishandling evidence in a drug investigation, and misconduct by bringing discredit to themselves and the police department.

The department's internal investigation division has conducted

an extensive investigation into all Northwest District drug investigations in the last 18 months, Mr. Ringgold said.

The officers have 10 days in which to schedule an appointment with internal affairs to make a statement, Mr. Ringgold said.

Officially, the officers have only been notified of an investigation and have not been formally charged. It is uncertain how long the investigation will take, Mr. Ringgold said.

In each case of alleged wrongdoing, an officer claimed to have submitted drugs to a police crime lab when he actually hadn't.

The criminal perjury charges were in effect thrown out last week by Baltimore Circuit Judge Andre M. Davis, who said that the violations were technicalities and that the misstatements on the search warrantapplications were immaterial and inconsequential.

The five officers have vehemently claimed that prosecutors pursued criminal charges because each of the officers was involved in the raid last July at the home on Taney Road.

The owner of the home, Ronald E. Hollie, is married to a cousin of Patricia Schmoke, the mayor's wife. No drugs were found at the home, though an informant claimed to have bought crack cocaine there.

Mr. Schmoke has said repeatedly that his involvement in the case has been merely to ensure that justice is served and that he has not exerted political pressure on police officials.

In the months following the Taney Road raid, police internal affairs officers and prosecutors examined more than 150 search warrants that had been written by the officers.

That examination turned up six raids -- including the Taney Road raid -- that were carried out after the officers had allegedly lied on the search warrant applications. The officers were criminally charged with perjury for those raids.

All five of the officers have been assigned to administrative duty at police headquarters for the duration of the internal investigation.

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