Officer charged by MTA in arrest of elderly couple Pair handcuffed for failing to pay light rail fares

November 04, 1992|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

The Mass Transit Administration has taken action against a veteran transit police officer in connection with his decision to arrest and handcuff an elderly Towson couple who failed to pay their light rail fares.

MTA Police Officer Edgar A. Turner has been charged administratively with "fail[ing] to follow established procedures/policy in the performance of his police duties" and will face a hearing before a three-member trial board, according to his lawyer.

The charge stems from an Aug. 31 incident involving Millie Campbell, 76, and her husband, Guy Austin Campbell, 77, of Towson.

The Campbells were arrested by Officer Turner during a heated confrontation that began during a routine inspection of tickets on board a light rail car.

All charges against the couple were eventually dropped, and the MTA put the officer on administrative duties while officials investigated the incident.

The Campbells have refused to comment publicly about the episode and are seeking compensation from the MTA in lieu of a lawsuit.

No hearing date has been set for Officer Turner, but the board is expected to convene within two to three months.

The police trial board will be responsible for deciding if Officer Turner is guilty of the charge. If he is found guilty, the board recommends a punishment to the MTA's administrator up to and including job termination.

MTA spokeswoman Dianna Rosborough declined to comment on the internal investigation, which sources say was concluded last week. She similarly refused to discuss the agency's latest actions involving Officer Turner, calling it a "personnel matter."

Previously, MTA officials have said the brouhaha started when the Campbells refused to show Officer Turner identification. He needed to see the IDs to issue them citations for failing to pay their $1.10 fares.

But the Campbells were not at fault for not having paid their tickets, MTA officials have admitted. The couple couldn't have paid since the ticket machines in the Lutherville station where they boarded their train were out of order.

Michael Marshall, Officer Turner's attorney, said his client was following the agency's policies and intends to contest the charge. Officer Turner has said the Campbells told him they boarded at Timonium, not Lutherville. He has also said he gave them the option of getting off the train to buy tickets.

Part of the problem, the attorney said, is that the MTA uses a fare-collection system that is "confrontational." Rather than collect fares as people board, such as on the Metro or on a bus, the MTA expects light rail riders to purchase their fares in advance of boarding, and MTA police randomly check them.

People who haven't paid could be fined at least $270, or as much as $500, for each incident.

"Everything the officer did conforms to the rules of the MTA," said Mr. Marshall. "I can't help but think this [charge] is public relations."

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