2nd jail officer put on leave in sex probe Howard Co. releases few details of investigation

September 10, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A second correctional officer at the Howard County Detention Center has been placed on administrative leave as a result of a seven-week investigation of sexual misconduct between male officers and female inmates at the jail.

County officials have not released the names of the two officers on administrative leave, saying the investigation is a personnel matter. One of the officers has been on administrative leave with pay for about a month, and the other was removed from his post late last week.

The probe is focusing on two officers and a female inmate, jail sources have said, but more officers and inmates may be under investigation.

When the inquiry began in late July, James N. Rollins, the jail director, said it would take a few days. But since then, officials have been moving slowly and have released few details. "They've been very, very closed-mouth about it, unusually so. I don't know why," said George Gisin, a staff member for Council 67 of the Maryland Public Employees Union, which represents jail officers. The lengthy investigation "says one of two things to me: Either nothing exists or they think it is larger than it initially was."

The Howard County Police Department's Internal Affairs Division completed a report of its investigation two weeks ago and gave it to Rollins and County Executive Charles I. Ecker. Despite promises of a public statement about the report, details have not been released.

Late last week, Ecker said that when the report was completed, he and other officials had follow-up questions about the investigation. He said he wanted more interviews conducted before any action was taken. Ecker said he might make a statement about the case this week.

"We're trying to make sure whatever action we take is on good grounds," Ecker said. "I think the length of time the investigation has taken is just that we're doing a good job. It has not expanded."

Rollins said, "It's a personnel matter, so we're trying to make sure we handle it appropriately because of the seriousness of the allegations. That's why we're taking our time with this."

At issue are allegations that an officer engaged in sexual activity with an inmate on several occasions at the jail. The inmate told The Sun in August that she also was the subject of several sexual advances by a jail sergeant.

In one case, the inmate said, the sergeant confronted her in an in-take area of the jail where she was changing her clothes for a work-release job and demand that she perform a sex act. The inmate said she refused.

Rollins, who first was told about the allegations by a correctional officer July 22, has said that the police investigation is focusing on accusations against those two officers only.

But some jail officers allege that other female inmates and other male officers have engaged in sexual activity in the jail.

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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