Detective stunned by suspension

Officer accused of trying to plant evidence defends his record

`It was shocking'

State drops 7 cases where Ruby was an investigator

February 13, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

Richard A. Ruby spent last week surfing on his computer and renovating his basement, spending time on sundry activities, except the one that gets his blood pumping on most days: enforcing the law in Westminster.

The police detective was suspended Feb. 4 as a result of accusations from colleagues that he tried to plant evidence on drug suspects. The allegations have caused chaos in the Carroll County court system, where seven drug cases in which Ruby was an investigator have been dismissed, and more might follow.

In an interview Friday -- his first since the allegations surfaced -- Ruby said that when an official relieved him of police powers, the action dumbfounded him. The Westminster Police Department has not formally told him why he was suspended, Ruby said, and he spent last weekend at home in Pennsylvania wondering what he was accused of doing.

"It was shocking," Ruby said. "I walked into work and within an hour I receive a letter and am advised by a supervisor that I was being suspended with pay. I asked questions. They couldn't answer any of them. And I found out like the rest of Maryland found out -- in the paper and through TV."

Ruby declined to discuss the specific allegations against him on the advice of his attorney, Shawn Larson. The attorney said he was troubled that the media found out the details of the allegations before Ruby did.

"We are not getting and are not entitled to the reports and statements of the accusers, and we are waiting to see what the actual allegations are," Larson said. "It's highly inappropriate for whoever in the Police Department that is leaking this information to the press to be doing that."

At a news conference Tuesday, State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said an officer -- Ruby has not been publicly named by authorities -- was under investigation by the state attorney general's office and that more than 100 drug cases might have to be thrown out. Westminster Police Chief Roger Joneckis said he became aware of the allegations several weeks ago and referred the matter to state police.

Larson said his client will be exonerated, and that the incidents involving Ruby have been taken out of context.

Written complaints

In two separate written complaints, other officers describe situations in which they suggest Ruby was ready to plant drugs -- in a car in one incident and on a suspect in another.

Larson stressed that as far as he knows, no one has accused Ruby of actually planting evidence.

"This man is a good police officer and a good cop," Larson said. "Officer Ruby is innocent of any criminal acts and innocent of any misconduct as an officer. The incidents involved have been misinterpreted, misconstrued and blown way out of proportion."

Ruby, 36, has been with the Westminster force since 1996. He began as a beat officer but was promoted in January 1999 to detective in the criminal investigation division. Ruby's 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift usually includes parking his unmarked car in front of city homes suspected of being sites for drug trafficking, then waiting and watching.

Seated in his living room Friday, surrounded by family pictures, Ruby said he dreamed of becoming a police officer while growing up one of four boys in Woodlawn. After graduating from North Carroll High, the dream was put on hold and Ruby went into odd jobs, working for a printing company in Baltimore County, as a car salesman and for a contracting company.

Ruby met his wife, Dottie, on a blind date at a club in Fells Point in 1983 and the couple married in 1986. They live with their three children in a tidy housing development in New Oxford, Pa., a half-hour commute from Westminster, using the back roads.

Ruby fulfilled his dream in 1994, entering the Baltimore police academy. He spent two years as a beat cop in Baltimore's Western District, where, Ruby said, drug traffickers were as young as 12 or 13 -- far younger than they are in Westminster.

But Westminster's drug problems have worsened lately, Ruby said, as dealers are beginning to learn how much they can charge for drugs.

"From talking to dealers, they can buy a bag in Baltimore City for $10, then bring it up to Westminster and sell it for $40," Ruby said. He said he moved to the Westminster force from Baltimore because the commute from New Oxford was shorter.

Telling the children

On Thursday, Ruby sat down with his two older children, ages 11 and 18, and promised that the allegations against him were overblown. He said he has not given them the newspaper to read and that he has not mentioned the situation to his youngest child, who is 9.

In an interview, he produced copies of more than a dozen commendations that are part of his personnel file. He was named officer of the month in Westminster six times, including two months in a row in 1997 and three times in four months in 1998.

When he received a "Respect for Law" award from the Westminster Optimist Club in May, Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan praised his work as "indicative of the highest dedication that a law enforcement professional can make to this community."

No previous complaints were in his personnel file, Ruby said.

"Have I ever been in any kind of trouble in the last six years? None. Never got written up, no lost days, no time without pay," Ruby said. "I go to work to work, and when I'm at work I put in 110 percent."

Sun staff writer Mike Farabaugh contributed to this article.

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