Officer reportedly suspended amid sex harassment claim

Police captain replaced as Eastern District leader

April 11, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The commander of the Anne Arundel County Police Department's Eastern District has been suspended with pay after being accused of sexual harassment, a county official said yesterday.

Capt. William Rothenbecker, a 24-year Police Department veteran who was appointed commander of the Eastern District in 2001, was temporarily replaced Wednesday by Capt. David Pressley, former commander of the Operations Support Division, according to police spokesman Lt. Joseph E. Jordan.

Jordan confirmed that Rothenbecker still is a paid employee of the Police Department, but declined to state the police captain's current job assignment.

Jordan would not say whether a sexual harassment allegation was the cause of the reassignment. He said that the department takes claims of sexual harassment seriously, and that in most cases the police Internal Affairs Division conducts its own investigation.

Rothenbecker could not be reached for comment yesterday.

O'Brien Atkinson, president of the Anne Arundel County lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, said that his group would represent Rothenbecker before internal hearing boards or in court. The union would also pay legal fees.

Atkinson said that Rothenbecker contacted the union recently regarding possible legal representation.

The word of possible sexual harassment within police ranks occurs on the heels of a recent court decision involving a former Anne Arundel County police officer who was accused in 1990 of raping a Crofton woman he had promised to drive home.

Agreeing with two lower courts, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the county is not obligated to pay the $1 million legal damages incurred by former police officer Michael D. Ziegler because his actions did not fall "within the scope" of his employment by the county.

Ziegler, an 18-year veteran of the force, was convicted in 1991 of police misconduct. He had been accused of rape before. In a separate incident in 1979, a Glen Burnie woman alleged that the officer assaulted her in her apartment. Ziegler was suspended for 30 days without pay, then transferred to clerical duty for 10 months.

The Ziegler and Rothenbecker cases were a topic of discussion among top county administrators recently, a government source said. The Human Relations Commission, headed by county Human Relations Officer Adrian D. Wiseman, might also review the Rothenbecker case, the source said.

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