Station house quarrel leads to police officer's desk-duty assignment

She allegedly said fellow officer was in KKK

June 10, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A black Baltimore police officer has been placed on desk duty after she allegedly accused a white officer of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan in a station house argument.

Officer Sonia Young, an 11-year veteran assigned to the Southwestern District, has made similar complaints against at least three other officers in the past few years, top police officials and her lawyer said.

The racial flare-up was the second in the Southwestern District since February, when a team of internal investigators interviewed more than two dozen officers one evening after a white lieutenant was accused of making statements with racial overtones.

Young, reached yesterday at the Northwestern District, where she has been assigned to desk duty, declined to comment. Her lawyer, William Buie, said she is being retaliated against because some district officers believe she wrote an anonymous letter that accused Lt. Ernie Meadows of racism. The letter prompted his suspension.

Buie said police officials "promised us that they will investigate whether or not this incident and a series of other incidents are related to Lieutenant Meadows."

The incidents have left investigators with a complicated series of racism complaints to sort through. Top police officials said they think any strife in the Southwestern District is isolated.

"We don't have a problem," said Maj. John L. Bergbower, the district commander, referring to race relations. "There have been a number of incidents involving [Young]."

The major said crime in his district has dropped 25 percent since the beginning of the year. "You don't get that kind of result in a district that's in turmoil," he said. "People have to work together to solve problems, and that's what's going on."

Officials said they will thoroughly investigate any claims of retaliation. "The commissioner has made it very clear that retaliation in any form will not be tolerated within the department," said police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr.

Buie said the latest incident occurred the night of June 2 or early on the morning of June 3. He said his client got into an argument with Officer Timothy Galt, who is white, over leave time.

Buie said Young heard a comment she construed as racist; he declined to elaborate. Department sources said she responded with a profanity and accused Galt of being a member of the KKK.

Buie would not comment on remarks by his client but said Young has had problems for months with other officers, mostly arguments that stem from the Meadows incident.

Other complaints that Young has made against white officers -- and counterclaims by them -- remain under investigation by the department. In one case, she is accused of slapping a white officer who pulled her car over for a traffic stop while she was off-duty, her lawyer and police officials said.

The spats became public in February when Meadows was suspended after an officer sent an anonymous letter to Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier accusing Meadows of making comments that angered black officers.

The letter, obtained by The Sun, alleges that Meadows addressed a group of white supervisors and "stated that white lieutenants and sergeants have to be careful and look out for one another because this department is going to be looking to burn one of them."

Meadows' lawyer, David B. Love, said his client believes Young "was instrumental as the source of the letter." Love said no departmental charges have been filed against Meadows, who has been suspended with pay for four months.

Galt, through a union representative, denied being a racist or belonging to any racist group. He declined to comment further.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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