Police to call for firing lieutenant found in raid

Mack seen in club during April 1 action

May 30, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Police Department plans to recommend the firing of Lt. John M. Mack, a 17-year veteran whom Commissioner Edward T. Norris recently accused of "working in a whorehouse" while on duty, a lawyer for the department told the City Council yesterday.

Police discovered Mack in a West Baltimore after-hours club that they and the state comptroller's office raided April 1. Police suspect he might have been moonlighting while on duty and said they found Mack's gun lying behind the establishment's bar -- a violation of the department's strict guidelines governing the proper handling of weapons.

"Based on the charges, he's facing termination," said Sean Malone, the Police Department's chief legal counsel, in response to questions from Northwest Baltimore Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector at a budget hearing. "He'll be charged this week."

Mack filed a $2 million defamation lawsuit last week against Norris, who made pointed comments about Mack at a City Council hearing this month, when he defended the removal of two top African-American officers in the department. Norris said the officers, then-Deputy Police Commissioner Barry W. Powell and Col. James L. Hawkins Jr., rushed to the defense of Mack after the raid of the bar.

"When he was caught, they came in and told me what a great guy he was, and this isn't right, and he's a good guy. He ain't a good guy in our eyes, and I don't want him in my department," Norris told the council. He also said: "Is this what you want, everyone? You want someone being paid by the Baltimore City Police working in a whorehouse on duty, not policing their district?"

Mack's attorney, William R. Buie III, said yesterday that Norris' comments indicated he had made up his mind about Mack's case.

"It sounds like a decision that was already made from some time back," Buie said. "Our issue [is] whether or not he'll get a fair trial board, and it seems like it will not be fair based on this process that we're going through."

Buie said after the lawsuit was filed last week that Norris' characterization of the incident was wrong, that Mack wasn't working at the establishment and that he wasn't on duty.

Department sources have said Mack was scheduled to work from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. supervising detectives in the Northwestern District when Ronnie's West Side Gallery, in the 2100 block of W. Lanvale St., was raided about 1:50 a.m. April 1.

The raid was initiated by the state comptroller's office, which suspected alcohol was being sold illegally at the establishment, and was accompanied by city police vice detectives, who recognized Mack.

Sources said Mack gave several different accounts of why he was at the club, and at one point told officers that he had given his gun to his girlfriend. The sources also said detectives requested that Mack stay after the raid, but he left.

Court documents state that 50 patrons were watching 25 strippers inside a red, one-story building where West Lanvale Street dead-ends into a fenced-in industrial complex.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the event was advertised as a "Freak Show," street slang meaning that the doors would be locked at about 12:30 a.m. and nobody else would be allowed inside. The sources said there was evidence of prostitution.

After the raid, Mack was relieved of his gun and badge and assigned to desk duty pending the department's internal investigation.

Malone declined to say in an interview yesterday what the specific charges will be. The lieutenant is expected to face a police trial board in about 45 days.

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