Fishy-Smelling Police Investigation ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

October 14, 1993

TC Anne Arundel County police were lucky all last summer; school scandals diverted attention from their own problems -- harassment complaints, detectives having sex with informants, allegations of steroid use. Now they are back in the limelight because of disturbing evidence that a captain doctored a report to help a federal agent pal, then got off the hook.

On Aug. 23 at about 2:40 a.m. agent Mark K. Novak, who had been drinking at a Glen Burnie bar, stopped outside somewhere to relieve himself. When he returned, his car was gone -- and so were the handgun and 7,000 rounds of ammunition he'd left inside of it. (The car and contents were later recovered.) Mr. Novak called police; when Officer William Selander arrived, the agent identified himself as a friend of Capt. Gary Barr.

The next day Mr. Novak asked Officer Selander to omit the reference to alcohol on his report and change the time to 12:40. He refused. But somehow a copy altered to Mr. Novak's specifications was faxed from Captain Barr's station to federal investigators with the captain's signature attached.

The police Internal Affairs Unit cleared Captain Barr. But his role in this affair looks suspicious.

The altered report was faxed minutes after Mr. Novak, calling from Captain Barr's office, asked for the changes, not because there were errors, but because he had already told his bosses a different story and was afraid of losing his job if they saw discrepancies in the police report. After Officer Selander refused, Captain Barr told him he would fax an unaltered copy of the report himself . . . except the version federal investigators received was not the same one the officer had compiled.

Clearly, meddling in the investigation of a friend is unethical. Why, then, did Captain Barr involve himself at all? If he heard Mr. Novak asking the officer to falsify the report (and one must assume he did, since the call was placed in his office) shouldn't he have directed central records, which keeps all original reports, to fax the document to make sure the feds got the correct copy? Mr. Novak left Officer Selander a note saying he had made the changes and faxed the report; how did he get it?

Internal affairs officials won't say how they decided to clear the captain. But the case is so fishy that it's hard to believe they didn't smell something before they so conveniently declared it closed.

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