Baltimore officer's girlfriend says she wants assault charge dropped Lieutenant's lawyer criticizes department's domestic abuse policy

October 22, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Charles Milland -- a member of the Baltimore police force for 27 years charged with assault last week -- says he scuffled with his girlfriend to prevent her from feeding a heroin addiction.

Kathy Layne now agrees with that assessment and wants the charge dropped. But she told officers who responded to her emergency call for help early Thursday that the veteran lieutenant had beaten her.

"The victim had a bruised right eye, bruised right cheek, swelling to the right rear of her head and a bruise on her left shoulder," Officer Joseph Mueller Sr. wrote in his report. "The suspect had bruises on both hands and scratches on both arms."

Mueller arrested Milland, 52, in keeping with a strict department policy that requires aggressive action in domestic violence accusations, especially when there is evidence of an assault.

The lieutenant has been stripped of police powers, his gun and badge, and ordered to desk duty. His trial is scheduled for next month, but, even if acquitted, he faces an internal investigation. Department commanders pursue domestic abuse cases with a view toward termination, even if the alleged victim refuses to testify.

Milland's lawyer, Edward A. Eshmont, complains that the arrest policy leaves officers responding to such incidents little room to evaluate the case. He also hinted that police officers may be treated more harshly than other citizens when accused in abuse cases.

"You could not possibly look at this case and think you have an arrest situation," Eshmont said. "He used the minimum amount of force necessary to defend himself. You have an addict who is headed for a slip [back into addiction]. He says, 'No you're not.' "

In crafting the department's policy on domestic abuse, police commanders intended to take much of the discretion away from officers. They must make an arrest is there is evidence of an assault and one partner says the other was responsible.

And city police officers have come under renewed scrutiny. Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has ordered a zero-tolerance stance on domestic abusers, including on his 3,200-member force.

Twenty officers are under internal investigation in domestic-related cases, and an additional 13 have had the allegations sustained and are facing a review hearing known as a trial board to decide their case. Milland's case has not reached either point; department commanders await the outcome of the criminal proceeding before beginning a separate, internal probe.

Gary May, the department's chief legal counselor who prosecutes officers accused of wrongdoing, said the officers in Milland's case took the correct action.

"It wouldn't have mattered if it's a cop or not," he said. "We don't treat police officers different than we treat citizens. We are not going after [Milland] any more than we go after anyone else."

Charges backed

Robert W. Weinhold Jr., the department's chief spokesman, supported the filing of charges.

"[Layne] made the allegation that she was the victim of domestic violence," Weinhold said. "She also had sustained visible signs of trauma to her facial area. The officers acted appropriately by effecting an arrest."

As to Layne's apparent retraction -- which Eshmont said should have been investigated by the officers who initially responded and noted that Layne had been drinking -- Weinhold said: "Those circumstances should be brought out in court."

Eshmont said Milland and 36-year-old Layne met in April and fell in love. The lieutenant discovered her heroin addiction later and enrolled her in a rehabilitation center for four weeks. He also took her to Sinai Hospital to get her stomach pumped after she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills.

Milland and Layne could not be reached for comment yesterday. The following account of what occurred on Oct. 16 and early Oct. 17 comes from an interview with Eshmont and a three-page handwritten letter from Layne, in which she regrets calling police and getting her boyfriend arrested:

About 6: 30 p.m., Layne, reacting to bad news, told Milland she wanted to leave to get high. He refused, blocking the door, and a scuffle ensued. Layne eventually left, got drunk at a bar and ended up at friend's house. Milland picked her up and brought her home.

A second argument and scuffle took place about 10: 45 p.m. and was witnessed by Layne's adult son, David, who did not intervene, and ended with Milland going into his bedroom, closing the door and trying to sleep.

"I went in, turned the light back on and woke him up," Layne wrote. "He told me to leave but I wouldn't. I called 911 because I wanted an officer to talk to him and make him stop putting me out of the bedroom."

Layne's letter continues: "I do remember as soon as the police came in I did not want to press any charges. I was shocked when they arrested him. I did not want them to do that and they didn't need to.

"Chuck Milland is a good man and didn't deserve to be locked up like a criminal," the letter says. "All I wanted them to do is to talk to him and because of my intoxication, an innocent man was arrested."

'Doesn't work'

Eshmont complained that the Police Department's "one-size-fits-all" approach to domestic violence cases "doesn't work. Everyone is different. It's complicated." He said the officers should have separated Milland and Layne instead of making an arrest.

But that is just what police commanders sought to avoid in making their policy. They didn't want officers to make difficult judgment calls.

Frazier, explaining his tough policy in 1994 when it was crafted, said: "I think that women many times are locked into dangerous situations because they either are afraid to prosecute for fear of retaliation or they are involved in a domestic situation where, in their estimation, they don't want to bring harm to the one that they love."

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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