Investigation of racial incidents at police station nearing end

One officer targeted will be promoted to sergeant today

May 24, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

An internal investigation into a series of racial incidents at a Baltimore police station is nearly complete, and one of the officers targeted is scheduled to be promoted today.

Officer Sonia Young, a 12-year veteran, served a one-day suspension after an argument with a colleague at the Southwestern District in which she was accused of labeling him a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Young is also involved in a case in which a white lieutenant remains under investigation for allegedly giving a speech with racial overtones.

The racial entanglement last year embroiled the district and was of such concern that police officials sent a team of internal affairs detectives to interview more than two dozen officers one day.

Having served her punishment, Young is cleared to be promoted along with 20 other officers who will become sergeants at this evening's ceremony.

Young completed a two-week suspension this year for an unrelated, nonracial incident in which she took a swing at an officer during another station-house argument. The officer was suspended for two days for referring to Young in a derogatory manner.

"We decided to promote her because she had no disciplinary cases pending against her," said Col. Bert Shirey, deputy commissioner of administration.

All officers promoted are placed on probation for a year, allowing department commanders to rescind the new rank for any reason.

Young's attorney, William Buie, said his client accepted her suspensions and opted not to fight the charges at an internal hearing.

Bringing an end to this and other internal affairs cases has been a top priority for the new police commissioner, Edward T. Norris, who has complained that a backlog of pending investigations and hearings was tying up the disciplinary process.

The department settled a 4-year-old discrimination suit with Sgt. Robert Richards this month and will promote him to lieutenant at today's ceremony, which also will serve as the ceremonial swearing-in for Norris and his two deputy commissioners.

The situation involving Young started last year as the department was trying to deal with the issue of whether black officers were being subjected to unfair punishment.

Young was placed on desk duty in June after she got into an argument with Officer Timothy Galt over leave time. She said Galt, who is white, made a comment she construed as racist. Galt said she accused him of being a Ku Klux Klan member. No administrative charges were filed against Galt.

Buie said at the time that his client was having problems with several officers who had accused her of writing an anonymous letter in February 1999 to Thomas C. Frazier, then the commissioner, complaining about Lt. Ernie D. Meadows.

The letter quoted Meadows as warning his officers during a roll call that Frazier was targeting white officers for discipline to satisfy complaints about unequal treatment.

Frazier suspended Meadows, a 27-year veteran, immediately after receiving the letter. The lieutenant's lawyer, David B. Love, would not say at the time whether his client had said what the letter reported, but he said Meadows was "a convenient scapegoat" for the department's racial problems.

Meadows has been assigned to the Northern District while his case is investigated.

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