Balto. Co. jail probe ordered Officer hired inmates as security guards

February 01, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger has ordered an investigation into work-release practices at the Baltimore County Detention Center after learning that a county police lieutenant employed inmates as security guards for his private agency.

"It's not a situation this county executive or anyone should be happy about," said Ruppersberger's spokesman, Michael H. Davis. "We're going to get to the bottom of this."

Investigators from the county budget office will review the work-release policies and how Lt. George Brooks came to employ four inmates last year at Burdick Security Services, the agency he operates with his wife.

Among the questions the investigators will be asking is whether the inmates were eligible for work release, whether their time away from the Detention Center was excessive and whether a police officer should be allowed to employ inmates in any capacity.

Davis said Ruppersberger didn't learn until Thursday that Brooks had employed the inmates, even though a complaint was filed with the Police Department nearly 10 months ago.

License suspended

Burdick Security Services of the first block Allegheny Ave. in Towson had its license suspended for 30 days, to begin Monday, for not turning over the names of all employees who work as security guards, state police said.

Although state investigators determined that the agency violated the law governing the licensing of security guards, the state attorney general's office and the county state's attorney's office found no reason to press criminal charges.

The Police Department is conducting an internal investigation into the matter. Brooks' police powers have been suspended, and he has been assigned to administrative duty pending the outcome of the inquiry, police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

Ex-inmate complained

County police learned of the situation in April, when John G. Valentine, a former Detention Center inmate, said Brooks had hired him for the security agency but had not paid him. County police then notified state police, who are responsible for licensing security guards.

Valentine told state investigators that he was serving 22 months for writing bad checks when Brooks, an officer in the department's technical services and property management section, offered him a $5-an-hour job with his private security company.

Valentine said he worked for more than a month at the Ruckert Terminals in the 2000 block of S. Clinton St., watching over thousands of dollars worth of aluminum ingots.

Valentine told investigators that he and another inmate, Dennis Parrish, sometimes worked as long as 20 hours straight at the warehouse.

Debbie Lynn Brooks, owner of the security business, has said that Detention Center officials approved of the inmates' security guard jobs and that she did not know any of them were felons.

Yesterday, James Dean, chief administrator at the Detention Center, declined to comment on the case and repeated earlier statements that he was unaware that the men were working for a security business.

Dean would not reveal the criminal records of the inmates hired by Brooks, but documents reveal that Valentine was serving time for writing bad checks and Parrish for drunken driving.

Brooks fired both after accusing them of being drunk on the job. They later received other work-release assignments.

State laws prohibit anyone with a felony conviction, a record as a violent criminal or history of drug or alcohol abuse from working as a security guard.

Mark Bowen, an assistant attorney general, said the law doesn't prohibit inmates from working as guards.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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