Chief Robey's executive baggage Howard County: Police leader will be dogged by two controversies if he runs for top job.

October 03, 1997

DEMOCRATS ORDINARILY would be thrilled with the candidacy of a police chief for high office. Who better than a respected, professional law-and-order type to balance the party's liberal persona? But the possibility that Howard County Police Chief James N. Robey may run for county executive as a Democrat doesn't exactly have party leaders doing cartwheels.

The image of Howard's 300-officer force has largely been positive under the chief's leadership, but he also has overseen two big blunders that have left him as vulnerable as an officer with a slingshot in a shootout.

Before Chief Robey can tell voters what he thinks about education, housing growth, economic development and how much money should be spent on soccer fields, he will have to explain two embarrassing episodes.

In one, he allowed an investigation into prostitution at massage parlors to become tainted. To gather evidence, a number of undercover officers allowed masseuses to touch them sexually, a lawyer charged. The cases became so potentially embarrassing to the officers, their wives and the police department that 11 of the 13 cases were dismissed.

More damaging to Chief Robey was a 1995 report on network television on the unreliability of lie detector tests that focused on a Howard County rape case. Police investigators had refused to believe a 19-year-old rape victim who reported that she was abducted and sexually assaulted. Police gave the woman a lie detector test, then accused her of lying and failed to investigate her case.

The teen-ager's assailant was eventually caught and confessed -- after raping another woman. Yet Chief Robey maintained on television that he still would believe a polygraph test over a rape victim's account.

It is impossible to visualize the chief being elected Howard county executive if he holds on to such viewpoints and refuses to apologize for these mistakes in judgment. An opponent on the campaign trail next year would undoubtedly mine these incidents that seem to have marred an otherwise impressive law enforcement career.

Chief Robey cannot undo his errors, but to gain credibility as a candidate for county executive he must at least admit to making them.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.