Fired police officer rehired

Courts supported black woman's claim that city act was bias

May 04, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A black Baltimore police officer who claimed her firing two years ago was rooted in discrimination was reinstated to the force this week despite a lengthy history of questionable behavior.

Christine P. Boyd, 28, has a file filled with suspensions and criminal charges during her career, ranging from cocaine possession to child abuse, but has never been convicted of a crime.

Acting Commissioner Edward T. Norris put Boyd back on the force after court rulings in her favor.

A Circuit Court judge had overturned two administrative convictions last year on charges of lying to investigators looking into whether she had threatened a neighbor with her gun. The court ordered a new internal Police Department hearing, at which she was found not guilty in February.

Despite that finding, police sources said they held off for three months putting Boyd back on the force because they were concerned about her past.

Norris disclosed Boyd's reinstatement during a City Council hearing late Tuesday after he was questioned on his commitment to ending racial problems that have troubled the force for years.

Department officials decided to reinstate Boyd after meeting with the Vanguard Justice Society, a black officers group that has supported Boyd, said its president, Sgt. Richard Hite.

"There are cases worthy of review," said Hite, who praised Norris' decision and said Boyd's return is the beginning of repairing years of discriminatory practices and unfair terminations.

"A new day is coming," he said. "Police officers are not going to come here under this cloud, nor will they stay here if they are going to be fired every time they make a mistake under the public eye."

As for Boyd, Hite said: "The courts looked at her record, looked at her case and decided she had been unfairly reprimanded."

City Solicitor Thurman Zollicoffer said Boyd will regain her arrest powers, gun and back pay dating to 1998.

He said the city was forced to reinstate her after the court ruled in her favor, and that the decision was not to appease federal civil rights authorities who are negotiating with city police over how to correct discriminatory practices.

But Zollicoffer did say that Norris is trying to move quickly to right past wrongs. "It was right to take her back," he said. "The commissioner is trying to be proactive in his approach. He is moving forward to making this a better police force."

Boyd, the solicitor acknowledged, "may not be the poster child for this issue."

"But procedurally she should be reinstated," he said. "Hopefully, with guidance and counseling she will be a great police officer."

Hite said Boyd will undergo several weeks of retraining. "She has to understand what her role is as a police officer," he said. "She has to regain the public trust."

The Police Department's disciplinary process has been under attack since 1994 when it was discovered that black officers were more likely to be fired or disciplined than their white colleagues for committing the same offenses.

The city's Community Relations Commission and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have concluded that racism exists on the police force, particularly in how officers are investigated for wrongdoing. Blacks make up 38 percent of the 3,200-member force.

At his nomination hearing Tuesday, Norris sought to assure the City Council that he will rectify problems.

"I am committed," he said.

City lawyers are negotiating with the EEOC on how to best address discriminatory practices, and the attorneys said at Tuesday's hearing that the rehiring of Boyd shows that the department is taking the matter seriously.

Boyd could not be reached for comment yesterday. She is one of several black officers who complained to the City Council that they were unfairly fired. Zollicoffer said city officials are well aware of Boyd's past.

She was suspended for two days without pay in 1993 after crashing her patrol car twice in four months.

In 1995, she was criminally charged after her 11-year-old daughter allegedly took her department-issued Glock handgun -- loaded with 14 bullets -- from under a mattress and pointed it at a 10-year-old boy during an argument over a jacket. Prosecutors did not pursue the case, but the department suspended her for five days without pay.

In May 1996, a neighbor filed charges against Boyd and accused her of making threats. The woman told police that Boyd showed up at her door, challenged her to a fight and displayed her gun tucked in her waistband. Those charges were dropped.

Seven months later, police arrested Boyd after doctors at Sinai Hospital concluded her daughter had been abused. Police charged Boyd with hitting the girl with a belt and with trying "to smother her with a pillow."

Boyd also was charged with possession of cocaine after police said they searched the officer's Northeast Baltimore home and found 14 bags of cocaine. Prosecutors dropped the child abuse and drug charges in 1997; they declined to offer an explanation yesterday.

Boyd was fired in 1998 on administrative charges stemming from the 1996 incident with the neighbor. An internal trial board convicted her on four counts of lying to investigators about what had happened.

Boyd sued the city in Circuit Court. Two convictions were thrown out and two others were remanded for another administrative hearing, at which she was found not guilty in February.

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