City police focus on rooting out corruption

Backlog of cases shrinks

ethics unit to expand

April 07, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police have substantially reduced a backlog of internal affairs investigations and are changing the focus of police corruption probes, officials said last week.

The department is also planning to add detectives to the unit that conducts integrity tests and is refining how those checks are conducted to more carefully target possible police corruption.

"We were going fishing," Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark said of the past internal investigations. "We're not fishing. ... My approach is totally different."

Clark, who worked as an internal affairs detective in New York, declined to discuss details of the new focus in fighting police corruption.

Other officials said internal affairs detectives have reduced a backlog that stood at 1,100 investigations in August to about 350. That has allowed officers to spend more time on investigations, said Sean R. Malone, chief of the department's professional standards division.

Malone pointed to the criminal investigation of a Southern District police officer who was arrested last month on drug charges as evidence the new approach is working. The officer, Aleacia Hill, 25, was indicted on charges of drug conspiracy and misconduct in office. She is accused of trying to alert suspected drug dealers to their impending arrests during a sting operation conducted at her district station.

Malone also said that the small ethics unit of five officers and two supervisors will soon grow by several detectives.

In the past, the unit selected sites at random to conduct integrity checks, which usually involved placing drugs and money in an area and seeing if officers turned in the items or kept them.

In recent weeks, the unit has begun culling data, ranging from citizen complaints to arrest numbers, to determine where to conduct the stings. Besides more carefully targeting officers, the checks are also changing in other ways.

"We're doing more creative tests," he said. "We want officers to think that any interaction they could be having with the public is being observed."

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