Md. police replace commander who probed Norris accident

Move was one of many transfers, promotions

December 05, 2003|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The Maryland State Police Internal Affairs commander who investigated an accident involving Superintendent Edward T. Norris will be replaced, officials and sources in the agency said yesterday.

A list of personnel changes made public yesterday by the state police said that Lt. Eric D. Danz was to be transferred out of the Internal Affairs Unit. But department officials said the transfer was an error and he will remain in the unit.

Capt. Mark P. Sroka, who has been acting chief of the Department of General Services Police, will head the Internal Affairs division, said Maj. Greg Shipley, a department spokesman.

Danz, who commanded the unit for about a year, recently oversaw an investigation into whether Norris followed department procedures when he reported a minor accident he had in a police vehicle, sources said.

Jervis S. Finney, counsel to the governor, acknowledged that Danz consulted him on "a minor investigative matter."

He and other officials declined to say whom the investigation involved or to comment further on its findings.

Norris bumped into a pole at a McDonald's parking lot on Falls Road on April 19 during a family outing, Shipley said. There was minor damage to the SUV's fender. No other vehicles or people were involved and the superintendent's administrative staff completed the paperwork on the accident the next Monday, he said.

Departmental policies state that officers should report auto accidents immediately.

Shipley said the accident did not prompt any personnel changes.

"The objective of the Internal Affairs [change] was to put a captain back in as commander," Shipley said.

Sroka's transfer was among several dozen promotions and transfers announced this week. Most take effect Dec. 10.

Union leaders, including officials with the Maryland Troopers Association and the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, said they had not received any complaints about the latest round of changes.

Also yesterday, department charges against Alliance President Cpl. Jim Wobbleton were dropped and he was transferred back to the Prince Frederick barracks, union officials said.

Wobbleton had filed a lawsuit in October alleging that he was transferred from Prince Frederick in Southern Maryland to Golden Ring in Baltimore County as punishment for surveying troopers about whether they supported Norris. Charges that he made false statements in the survey were dropped, said Dan Poist, the alliance's executive director.

"It's a huge victory," Poist said. "It vindicates him and what we've said all along -- that this investigation was fabricated to intimidate union officials."

Sun staff writers Michael Dresser and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

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