City police major involved in dispute over car announces plans to retire

March 05, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore police major who unsuccessfully demanded his boss be investigated for "unprofessional conduct" put in his retirement papers after learning he will replaced as head of the warrant squad.

Maj. John L. Bergbower, a 27-year veteran, said his retirement, submitted Friday, will be effective May 1. He said he had been offered a job with the state some time ago but a recent incident involving his supervisor, Col. James L. Hawkins Jr., and a staff member, Lt. Regis L. Phelan, "helped me make this decision."

The major had become involved in an incident two months ago when Phelan, filling in for him and with his permission, took an unmarked cruiser home to Carroll County.

Hawkins, upset at the apparent abuse, used a spare key to take the car and then set up an elaborate sting to try to catch Phelan in a lie about his reasons for having the cruiser.

Phelan notified Maryland State Police, who began investigating the apparent theft. When Bergbower discovered what Hawkins had done, he sent a detailed memo to Internal Affairs demanding an investigation, complaining that Hawkins had acted unprofessionally and triggered a waste of police resources.

Department commanders did not investigate Hawkins. Commissioner Edward T. Norris, in an interview Jan. 30, said he was angry at all three people and indicated that Hawkins, Bergbower and Phelan were equally culpable.

Officials said command staff moves to be announced this week will include replacing Bergbower.

Sources said Maj. Russell N. Shea Jr. will run the warrant squad, and Lt. Donald E. Healy will be promoted to major to take Shea's place in the tactical unit.

Bergbower, the department sources said, was to be moved to a desk job at headquarters.

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