Hispanic residents demand swift justice

2 men accuse officer of robbing them of money

January 08, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A skeptical group of East Baltimore Latino residents demanded last night that a former city police officer be swiftly arrested and charged for allegedly stopping two Hispanic men and stealing their money.

"We want to support the police," Paul Osorio told top officers at a community meeting. "But we expect the rights of the Hispanic people to be enforced. We are going to watch you, because our people are suffering. We are tired of the promises."

Speakers who packed the Enoch Pratt Free Library branch at North Broadway and Orleans street said they came to the United States to escape police oppression in Central America, "and not to see it in a country such as this one," said Miguel Rivera, a Fells Point businessman.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy assured the audience that her office is conducting a criminal investigation of the officer, who resigned hours after a complaint was filed on Dec. 28.

Felix Guevara, 48, an immigrant from El Salvador, complained that he was detained by a uniformed patrol officer on the street, ordered to hand over his residency papers and robbed of $300. Hector Portillo, 23, said he was robbed of $500 by the same officer on Dec. 13. Both attended last night's meeting.

Maj. George L. Klein Jr., commander of the Southeastern District station and the accused officer's boss, said the department is disturbed by the accusations. The former officer has been identified by high-level department sources as Dorian J. Martin, a 6-year veteran.

"This is a very unfortunate situation," Klein said. "We are embarrassed. We are as much outraged by the accusations as the community is. There is no police cover-up here."

Klein encouraged scrutiny of his officers. "We want you to watch us," he said. "We will rebuild the community partnership. It will get stronger."

Members of the Hispanic community have repeatedly demanded to know why the officer was not arrested immediately after Guevara filed his complaint on Dec. 28.

Jessamy said Maryland law does not allow uniformed officers to be arrested, but requires that the complaint be forwarded to her office for an investigation.

"We will try as quickly as we can to resolve this matter and get it in court," she said.

Residents agreed to wait out the process, but warned that positive relations that police have built within their community could dissolve if the case is not handled properly.

"The relationship is fragile," said Rev. Angel Munez of the Spanish-Christian Church. "One individual can shatter it and cause division in the community."

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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