Officer who took gratuity resigns Noaker may be called as witness against 2 former colleagues

August 19, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore police officer under investigation for accepting a $100 gratuity from a community group and failing to report it to his superiors has quit the force.

The resignation of Officer Kirk D. Noaker ends a five-month investigation into his actions, but top commanders said he could be called as a witness against two of his former colleagues, who remain on the force and also are under investigation for taking the same amount of money.

Noaker, who has not spoken publicly about his predicament and could not be reached for comment yesterday, resigned July 13.

His resignation was made public yesterday in a package of intraoffice memos on personnel moves dating to June that is routinely distributed to reporters. The reason for the resignation states that Noaker left for "another position." It could not be learned yesterday what job Noaker took.

The investigation stemmed from an annual banquet held in December by Northwest Citizens Patrol, which attracts hundreds of well-connected citizens, including top police commanders, judges, prosecutors and politicians.

The patrol group is a nationally recognized model that has officers permanently assigned to ride with its members, who closely follow cases through the courts and testify on behalf of the Upper Park Heights community.

At the banquet, the group's president, Rusty White, gave engraved gavels to judges, plaques to other honorees and envelopes to three Northwestern District officers, with "Do not open until you get home" written on the outside.

Robert W. Weinhold Jr., the Police Department's chief spokesman, has confirmed that a $100 bill was tucked inside each Christmas card. Little has been said publicly beyond that.

"I can't talk about the case," said Maj. Ronald S. Savage, who heads the Internal Investigation Division. "I can't say if it's concluded."

But the issue has been the subject of considerable internal debate.

Sources familiar with Noaker's side said he discovered the money when he got home, was uncomfortable, and returned the money to White's wife a short time later. The sources said he also wrote a formal report to his commanders explaining his uneasiness.

Noaker, a former liaison officer, also complained that he was demoted to a midnight patrol shift after he returned the money. One of his supervisors said in March that officials were "making the one guy who stood up and did what was right into the bad guy."

But top commanders have maintained that Noaker knew of his reassignment before the banquet. They have said Noaker only returned the money after top commanders started asking questions when they heard officers bragging about the gifts in the station house.

It is routine for community groups and businesses, including The Sun, to recognize officers by giving awards. But departmental rules prohibit officers from receiving any money or gifts without permission from Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

Weinhold has confirmed that three officers -- Noaker is the only one whose name has been learned -- each received $100 in the envelopes and were ordered to return the money. The spokesman said the investigation centers on whether the officers complied.

But sources have said that Noaker received a letter in March that outlined a more expansive investigation that included charges of filing a false report and unauthorized contact with the news media.

A top police commander said yesterday that the spectacle could have been avoided had the officers followed procedure and gotten permission from Frazier.

"They could have kept everything they got," said the high-ranking police official, who was at the December dinner.

White, the patrol group head, has declined to comment since the first reports surfaced in February. "We have a long-standing policy that we don't talk to the press about controversial issues," he said yesterday.

The police commander said White has met with him to discuss how to reward officers in the future. The source said he told White to clear all gifts with Frazier and distribute them in a more public way to avoid unscrupulous appearances.

"I think that Rusty White thought he was doing the right thing," the commander said. "I think he was shocked when he was questioned about what he did."

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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