Board calls for officer's demotion

City lieutenant found guilty of insubordination, making false statements

October 31, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police Lt. Robert R. Richards, who has had a stormy relationship with the department, has been found guilty of several infractions by a trial board and is awaiting word on whether he will be fired.

A three-member board, composed of a Baltimore County lieutenant and a captain and lieutenant with the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, tried Richards on 14 charges this month. He was found guilty of nine, including making false statements and insubordination, said his attorney, Domenic Iamele.

The trial board recommended that Richards be demoted to sergeant, but the penalty is up to Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and could be firing. A spokeswoman said Norris would not comment yesterday.

The lawyer said the recommendation of a demotion gave Richards hope. "If the trial board's wishes are carried forth, then he will remain as a member of the Baltimore City Police Department," Iamele said.

Richards, 39, has a history of problems with the department. He filed a $13.5 million lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court in 1996, alleging discrimination when he was promoted to sergeant but forced to leave the helicopter unit, where he wanted to remain a pilot.

Richards settled the suit with the city for an undisclosed amount, was reassigned as head of the helicopter unit and promoted to lieutenant.

But in December, two days after Mayor Martin O'Malley complained that police helicopters weren't flying enough, Norris demoted Richards to a job supervising street patrol officers in the Western District.

In his most recent troubles, Richards was accused of insubordination Feb. 8 for failing to get a physical exam ordered by a major.

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