Officer summonses found in clerk desk

Officials say city police court absences were being investigated

January 18, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A veteran civilian employee of the Baltimore Police Department might have played a role in keeping officers from making hundreds of court appearances, police officials said yesterday.

The clerk, who joined the force in 1986, was in charge of receiving summonses for officers in the special operations units, police officials said. Hundreds of summonses, which alert officers to court appearances, were found stuffed in the clerk's desk Wednesday by a lieutenant who was checking into why officers were missing court, police officials said.

The summonses might date from last summer, an official said.

Police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella said the summonses were discovered as part of a "proactive" inspection. Averella declined to comment further or identify the employee, noting an internal investigation.

The discovery of the summonses occurred after prosecutors said last week that officers were missing too many court appearances. State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said that of the 14,395 District Court cases prosecutors dropped or shelved from January through November last year, 25 percent were not pursued because officers did not show up.

Police officials have said the data do not tell the entire story. They said officers often do not receive a summons, receive it too late or are told not to appear by prosecutors.

Police officials said the clerk told investigators that she only stuffed summonses into her desk that arrived after a scheduled court date. Police officials said they are just beginning to examine the summonses.

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