City officer is suspended, accused of taking money in Police Department sting

2nd disciplinary action from `integrity' operations

October 25, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A probationary Baltimore police officer has been suspended from duty for allegedly keeping money that had been placed in an alley with drugs as part of a departmental sting operation Tuesday night, police sources said yesterday.

The officer was sent to the alley in the Southeastern District by a dispatcher, who told him someone had found drugs and wanted an officer to check it out, sources said.

After finding the drugs and cash, the officer allegedly turned in only the drugs and was stopped by police officials when he walked out of the Southeastern station house with the money at the end of his shift, the sources said.

The officer, hired in October of last year, has been suspended pending the outcome of the internal investigation, the sources said.

Police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella declined to discuss what she termed an "ongoing internal investigation."

A lawyer who represents the local police union said the case against the officer is "defensible."

"The officer gave a full statement to the police," said Henry L. Belsky, the lawyer. "I understand that he cooperated fully. He professes his innocence."

The officer graduated from the police academy during the summer. Because he is probationary, he can be fired by Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris without a disciplinary hearing, the sources said.

It was the second known suspension to have been generated by "integrity" stings launched by Norris when he took command of the department last year. The other case involved the arrest of Central District Officer Brian L. Sewell, who was accused of criminal misconduct and perjury after allegedly arresting a city man on false drug charges.

In that instance, police investigators had put supposed crack cocaine on a park bench in September of last year and made a phony call to the department's nonemergency 311 line complaining about the drugs.

Another officer picked up the drugs, then responded with Sewell on a burglary call where, police officials say, Sewell arrested a burglary suspect and also charged him with possessing the planted drugs.

In a report, Sewell wrote that he saw the man put the drugs on the bench.

The case against Sewell was dropped by city prosecutors after a break-in at the Police Department's secret integrity unit in December, in which a burglar tampered with several files - including Sewell's.

Sewell is scheduled to appear Oct. 31 at a disciplinary hearing, at which the Police Department plans to present evidence in an effort to fire him.

Reached at home last night, Gary L. McLhinney, president of the local police union, declined to comment on this week's suspension.

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