Clark began review panel after officer killed man, 78

Board meeting to follow any police-linked shooting

January 07, 2004|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

After the fatal shooting of a gun-wielding elderly man last month by a city police officer that later drew criticism from a top commander, Baltimore police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark established a departmental team to conduct immediate reviews of such shootings, officials said yesterday.

The panel - which will consist of top commanders and those investigating the incident - is supposed to meet the day after all police-involved shootings to study witness statements and procedures before making training and other recommendations, officials said.

Clark convened such a panel for the first time the day after the Dec. 8 shooting of Cephus Smith, a 78-year-old gunman who had earlier fatally wounded the manager of his East Baltimore apartment complex. An officer shot and killed Smith after another officer failed to subdue Smith after hitting him twice with high-voltage charges from a stun gun.

The shooting drew sharp criticism from a commander who responded to the scene of the incident. That official, Maj. Michael Andrew of the Eastern District, wrote in an internal memo that police officials did not wait long enough before sending officers into the apartment to subdue the man. The decision, Andrew wrote, put the officers' lives in danger needlessly. Andrew has declined to talk about his Dec. 17 memo, which was addressed to Clark.

Four fatal and seven nonfatal police-involved shootings occurred in the city last year. Clark's review panels have met after two other police-involved shootings since Smith's death.

The panels "are expected to make detailed presentations, going over exactly what happened, " said police spokesman Matt Jablow. The review teams are separate from investigations of police shootings by homicide and internal affairs detectives who determine whether officers acted appropriately and legally, he said.

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