Police sergeant suing department faces charges

Sexual harassment among 20 counts filed

March 03, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore police sergeant -- whose 3-year-old racial discrimination suit against the agency is pending -- has been charged administratively with sexual harassment by the department's internal investigators.

Lawyers representing Sgt. Robert Richards said they were served with the papers on Tuesday. Attorney Michael Davey would only confirm that his client has been charged; police sources said the 20 counts include harassment.

"I have to review a 6-inch file," Davey said yesterday. "I won't comment on anything."

Sean Malone, the department's legal affairs director, and Lt. Darnell Brock, acting head of the Internal Investigation Division, also declined to comment.

Details of the allegations, which sources say stem from a lengthy investigation that began at least two years ago under former police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, could not be learned yesterday.

Richards can either accept punishment recommended by the department or fight the charges at a public trial board, an administrative hearing with witnesses that is similar to a trial.

Richards filed a $13.5 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 1996 alleging that he was discriminated against when he was promoted to sergeant but forced to leave the helicopter unit, where he wanted to remain as a pilot.

Though the case has not gone to trial, the lawsuit has caused upheaval in the Police Department. The witness list includes the mayor, former mayor, police commissioner and former police commissioner.

Then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, routinely named in hundreds of suits during his tenure, was forced to give an unprecedented deposition about allegations of racism on the police force.

Ronald L. Daniel, then a colonel, gave a deposition in which he called Frazier a racist, sparking an uproar in which Daniel was ousted from his command and moved to a small City Hall office. Daniel is now police commissioner.

For the past several months, lawyers for the city and for Richards have been meeting with a court-ordered mediator in attempts to reach a settlement. No deadline has been set, and attorneys have been ordered to keep silent about the talks.

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