Board favors demotion for sergeant who had sex with informant Police chief has 30 days to review the recommendation

November 19, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

A police trial board has recommended that a county police sergeant be demoted for having sex with a confidential informant.

The three-member panel, which on Wednesday convicted Sgt. Bret K. Ballam of conduct unbecoming an officer, announced the punishment yesterday.

Police Chief Robert Russell has 30 days to review the case and uphold or alter the punishment.

Neither Sergeant Ballam nor his lawyer, Thomas Pavlinic, would comment on the decision.

"This really sends out a message to the troops that doing a good job does not matter," said one officer who heard the decision and asked not to be identified.

Sergeant Ballam, a 16-year veteran of the department and former narcotics detective, admitted to having sex with the 19-year-old woman in 1992.

But he told the board yesterday that he did not violate department regulations intentionally. He said the relationship occurred while he was assigned to patrol, which did not have the same restrictions as the narcotics unit.

"I was honest, and I told Internal Affairs what happened," he said. "This was a private thing, and I did not want it to reflect badly on the department."

His commanding officer at Eastern District, where he supervises a squad of officers, praised Sergeant Ballam's arrest record and described him as an asset to the department.

"His performance has always been outstanding," said Capt. Thomas Shanahan. "Bret has always been the one to give extra to the department."

The 19-year-old woman, who is being held in the county detention center on prostitution charges, testified Monday that she had sex with Sergeant Ballam in January or February 1992.

She testified that she had been a drug user since she was 11 years old and often had trouble remembering facts.

She said she did not file a complaint against Sergeant Ballam. But when Internal Affairs detectives came to her home, she said, they threatened to arrest her if she did not cooperate.

Mr. Pavlinic said a county police officer alerted Internal Affairs after hearing of the relationship from an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent.

Throughout the hearing Mr. Pavlinic accused Internal Affairs detectives of improperly handling the case and intentionally withholding information.

He said the informant told detectives she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when they interviewed her and Internal Affairs detectives intentionally withheld portions of that statement from him.

"If I didn't get those statements through my own means, I would not have known that occurred," he said.

Mr. Pavlinic added that department officials withheld medical records that would have called into question whether the informant said she had become pregnant during her relationship with Sergeant Ballam, as was noted in his charging documents.

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