Police trial board finds officer guilty Charges involve love triangle

February 07, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

An Annapolis police officer who became entangled in a ruinous love triangle faces dismissal or suspension after being found guilty of interfering with an investigation into allegations that she harassed her ex-boyfriend and his new flame.

Officer Lisa Whiting, 30, left police headquarters Friday afternoon shaken, but with her head high, after a trial board recommended that she either be fired for interfering with the probe, or suspended for up to 10 days for making false statements to investigators.

The three-member panel of police officers found her guilty of four of 11 administrative charges stemming from a complaint that she repeatedly harassed her former boyfriend and threatened his girlfriend in the fall of 1991.

Police Chief Harold Robbins will review and act on the board's recommendation. Although the chief can accept or reject the recommendation, Officer Whiting said she expects to be fired.

"I got in trouble because of a guy who lied and a woman with a fatal attraction," said the four-year veteran of the department.

Her attorney, Joel L. Katz, called the ruling "an outrage" and vowed to appeal. He charged that Officer Whiting was the target of a biased investigation and that the hearing was a "travesty of justice."

The two-day hearing had the drama of a soap opera, filled with sex, lies and intrigue.

City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson, representing the Police Department, depicted Officer Whiting as a scorned woman who manipulated her former boyfriend, Timothy O. Bittinger, into signing a letter asking police to call off the investigation.

Mr. Katz argued that she was the victim of a vendetta by Mr. Bittinger's new girlfriend.

He also said her rights were violated when investigators put a wiretap on a phone and taped a conversation without her permission.

Mr. Bittinger, a construction worker from Hanover, testified that he began dating another woman, Julie Puckett, while still seeing Officer Whiting. The officer testified that she learned of the relationship when she found the two of them in bed together.

Ms. Puckett initiated the investigation against Officer Whiting by calling the Police Department and alleging that she had received threatening phone calls. Ms. Puckett did not testify at the hearing.

Officer Whiting denied that she made any threats or harassed her boyfriend. In fact, she said he continued to call and pursue her, even as he asked police for a restraining order to keep her away from him.

Officer Whiting was found guilty of making false statements about a letter she drafted accusing the city's internal affairs investigator of harassing her and conducting an unprofessional inquiry.

She claimed that Mr. Bittinger had dictated the letter, which he signed and had notarized. Mr. Bittinger testified that Officer Whiting wrote the letter and persuaded him to sign it.

The officer's mother, Janet Whiting, said she found the ruling "absolutely unbelievable."

"It defies logic how they could convict her," said the mother, who called the evidence against her daughter "just lies."

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