Domestic row involving chief to be probed

Commissioner denies he assaulted his fiancee

He will OK external investigation

Suspension asked by head of FOP until inquiry done

May 18, 2004|By Ryan Davis and Doug Donovan | Ryan Davis and Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark announced last night that he will authorize an independent investigation into an early Saturday morning domestic dispute he had with his fiancee, after which an officer reported hearing her say, "He assault me."

The president of the police union called for Clark to be suspended until the investigation is completed, but Clark declared that he would not step aside and that he has "done nothing wrong."

"We had a disagreement like any other couple would have," Clark said at a hastily arranged 8:30 p.m. news conference. "There was no assault in my residence."

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who was traveling in Italy on business, released a statement through his press office: "We take allegations of domestic violence very seriously. This incident will be investigated thoroughly by an independent entity to ensure that all the facts come to light as quickly as possible."

Clark said it is common for officers to remain on duty while they are being investigated. He said the alleged offense must be strong enough to support either a citation or an arrest for an officer to be suspended.

But Dan Fickus, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said police are often forced to turn in their badges and guns solely because of allegations.

"Why is this man not suspended?" Fickus asked. "Why is he still running the Police Department? ... If the allegations are true, he should step down and immediately resign."

Clark, 47, released the report on the incident at the news conference, standing beside his fiancee, Blanca Gerena. The police report states that the "domestic dispute" incident occurred at 3:52 a.m. Saturday. It does not identify Clark or his fiancee by name, and Clark said yesterday he was not sure "what the logic was" behind the omission.

Clark confirmed that the incident occurred at his apartment in North Baltimore, where uniformed officers are regularly stationed for protection.

The report states that a "black female approached officers ... at an unspecified location within the northern district."

According to the report, the woman asked to use an officer's phone. The officers asked if she was "okay," and she stated that she was the wife of Clark. The commissioner is referred to in the report as "a male known to officers and who will remain anonymous and known as `the male' for the purpose of this report."

The woman then said that she needed a ride. The officers asked Clark if he wanted them to "take her somewhere." The police told her that Clark had said she could "take the truck."

"The female stated, `no, he assault me' (in broken english)," the report says. "The officer did not observe any injuries to the female. They asked her what happened. The female said nothing more than `I want to use the phone.'"

The woman then used an officer's cell phone and called for a ride. "After a few minutes," the report states, another female arrived and picked her up.

Later Saturday, a supervisor's report was filed about the incident and provided additional information, but again never mentioned Clark's name or address. The report said that the officers "kept the parties apart and attempted to ascertain what was happening[.]"

"At no time while I was at the undisclosed location did the original black female seek refuge or request assistance from me," states the report of the unnamed supervisor, who was called by one of the officers on his personal cell phone.

O'Malley appointed Clark commissioner in January last year, hiring him away from his hometown of New York City.

During an interview last night after the news conference, Clark said he and his fiancee - who have been dating for 14 years - became embroiled in an argument over traveling to New York.

Typically, he said, they drive to New York early Saturday mornings, but he decided he needed to stay this past weekend because of the Preakness horse race and other events. He said that decision upset his fiancee because his work schedule has prevented him from going to New York - which he described as "home" - in the past few months.

He said his fiancee went outside, left with their 4-year-old son and a friend, and returned to their Baltimore apartment later in the morning.

The commissioner said his fiancee has told him that she did not tell police of an assault. While she also speaks Spanish, Clark said his fiancee speaks perfectly clear English, as she did during a brief statement of support at last night at the news conference.

"I support my husband, my fiance. Nothing happened," she said. "That's all I have to say right now."

Clark said he and his fiancee put the argument behind them and were not aware of any report until the Police Department began receiving calls from The Sun and other news media yesterday.

Clark said he has not decided what agency will lead the investigation, but he mentioned either the Maryland State Police or the Baltimore County police.

"When this is over," he said, "I want to feel I can walk and people won't say, `He used his own people. We expected it to turn out that way.'"

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