Police investigation said to focus on tape of officer's profanity Man reportedly called 911 secretly to record conversation

February 07, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A man stopped by a Baltimore police officer last month secretly dialed 911 from a hidden phone as the officer launched into a profanity-laced tirade that was captured on tape at police headquarters, according to department sources.

The Eastern District officer, Deron Garrity, 26, who has been on the force for nearly six years, was stripped of his police powers within two hours of the alleged incident and placed on administrative duties, sources said.

Police officials are conducting an internal investigation that could lead to disciplinary action ranging from counseling to dismissal. The man the officer stopped Jan. 19 -- whom officials would not identify -- was not arrested or charged with a crime.

Department commanders would not comment, citing the open internal investigation. But they said use of profanity by officers on the street is prohibited.

"Officers are expected to treat people with respect and dignity," said Maj. Odis L. Sistrunk, commander of the Eastern District, where Officer Garrity is assigned. "We don't want to leave the impression that we are being disrespectful."

Maj. Robert Novak, head of the department's internal investigation division, also would not comment on the case.

He said that in 1994, 114 complaints of officers exhibiting discourteous behavior were deemed serious enough to warrant a full investigation.

Officer Garrity, reached yesterday at the Central Records Division where he is assigned pending the outcome of the case, declined to comment.

Sam Ringgold, the Police Department's chief spokesman, would only confirm the officer's name and that he had been placed on administrative duties.

He said the incident occurred in the 100 block of N. Dallas St. and "involves a discourtesy."

A police source said that Officer Garrity approached two men emerging from a vacant rowhouse on the narrow East Baltimore street and stopped one for questioning.

The man dialed the 911 emergency number from either a portable or a cellular phone that he had hidden behind him or under his clothes, a source said.

Sources said the tape picked up 30 or 40 seconds of a conversation that included Officer Garrity screaming obscenities at the man. The Eastern District dispatcher monitored the call, then passed it along to a supervisor. "The audio was pretty clear," a source said.

Department officials refused to release a transcript of the call. But sources said internal affairs investigators are trying to determine whether the officer had a prior run-in with the man.

A source also said that at one point the man "may have egged on the officer knowing that he was being taped."

A source who has heard the tape described the officer as trying to intimidate the man.

L "I am the f police," the officer reportedly said to the man.

After the officer left Dallas Street, sources said, the man hung up, redialed 911 and filed a complaint with a supervisor. The officer's police powers were then suspended.

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the police union, would not comment on the specifics of the case. He said that in normal day-to-day police work, "Profanity doesn't have a place. we need to present a professional image."

But the union head said that "there are cases where if profanity is not appropriate, it should be understood. It's street language."

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