State police lieutenant's lawsuit claiming unfair punishment settled in circuit court

Department will transfer officer closer to home

July 19, 2000|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A lawsuit filed by a state police lieutenant who claimed he was unfairly punished by the agency for failures in the tracking of domestic violence orders was settled yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

State police agreed to transfer Lt. David Barcroft to a job with a shorter commute and not to bypass him for future promotions.

Barcroft filed suit in January, alleging he was transferred from Pikesville to a "made-up" job in Salisbury, which he said was a seven-hour round-trip commute from his Hampstead home.

Before the transfer, Barcroft supervised grant money used to maintain a domestic violence database. He was assigned to a new job on the Eastern Shore in the wake of news reports that court orders were not being recorded in the computer system that was established to keep firearms away from defendants in domestic abuse cases.

The system came under criticism in September after Wayne Spicknall was charged with killing his son, 2, and daughter, 3, with a 9 mm handgun he purchased at a College Park pawnshop. The Howard County sheriff's department acknowledged it neglected to enter a restraining order against Spicknall that might have prevented the purchase.

Spicknall is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 30 in Kent County.

Yesterday, the state agreed to transfer Barcroft from Salisbury to the state police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, which has its headquarters in Linthicum Heights in Anne Arundel County.

The state police also agreed not to bypass Barcroft for promotions, according to an agreement read in court by Barcroft's lawyer, James A. Lanier.

Lanier and Betty Stemley Sconion, the assistant attorney general representing the state police, agreed to the settlement before Judge John O. Hennegan.

Both lawyers declined to comment beyond what was in the agreement. Barcroft was not in the courtroom and could not be reached for comment.

In his suit, Barcroft alleged his transfer was punitive and violated his rights because he was not first given a hearing. Police denied the move was a disciplinary action.

The Spicknall case sparked news reports that as many as half the people subject to restraining orders in Maryland are not listed in databases state police used to conduct background checks for gun purchases.

The reports - which prompted legislative hearings - said many protective orders were not being logged into computers for weeks or months and that state police knew about the problem.

Barcroft, as assistant commander in the Communications Services Division, supervised grants for the domestic violence database. Barcroft's lawsuit stated he was "interrogated" for two hours about the problems before he was transferred.

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