Domestic dispute involving Clark sparks inquiry

Several in city police command facing internal investigation

October 01, 2004|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

The fallout surrounding Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark's May domestic dispute continues to grow, and as many as five members of his command staff have been told they're under internal investigation for their handling of the incident, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The commissioner emerged from the incident without charges, but some of his highest-ranking commanders could face internal rebuke depending on the outcomes of the department investigations.

Chief of Patrol J. Charles Gutberlet III and his immediate deputy, Lt. Col. Steven McMahon, have recently been notified that they are being investigated, sources said. Two other top police officials may also have been notified, sources said.

Their notifications follow those given in August to Maj. Regis Phelan and Lt. Elfago Moye, who are being investigated for alleged misconduct and neglect of duty. As a major, Phelan is considered a member of the command staff; Moye is not.

Department spokesman Matt Jablow and a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin O'Malley declined to comment last night. Gutberlet declined to comment. McMahon could not be reached for comment. An attorney for at least some of the men did not return phone calls.

Local police union President Dan Fickus said he is frustrated that others face scrutiny for the incident.

"It's sad that we have to take our energy in this department and look into internal situations that are of minor consequence as opposed to expending that same energy to reduce crime in the city of Baltimore," he said.

It's unclear precisely what charges are being investigated or the potential punishment.

The investigations by the department's internal affairs unit stem from the May 15 dispute between Clark and his fiancee, Blanca Gerena.

According to police reports, shortly before 4 a.m., Gerena emerged from the couple's North Baltimore condominium and asked the police officers stationed outside whether she could use a telephone. Uniformed officers are regularly posted outside Clark's condominium for security.

The officers asked her if she was all right, according to the report. Both officers reported that Gerena said, "He assault me" in broken English. Neither reported seeing injuries.

Several officers and supervisors responded, and Gerena left the scene with a friend.

Phelan wrote a report, which he filed to Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Blackwell, stating that Gerena's friend later called him to say that Clark had previously assaulted Gerena. Phelan also reported that, according to her friend, Gerena had suffered neck and back injuries. The friend has since denied making those comments.

Phelan wrote in one report that he contacted Blackwell several hours after the incident and that Blackwell said he would come to Phelan's office after meeting with the commissioner.

According to the report, Gutberlet called Phelan to say Blackwell's cell phone battery was dying and that Blackwell would call later.

The report then states that Phelan contacted McMahon and that McMahon had Phelan come to his home for a meeting.

McMahon wrote a memo to Blackwell stating that he had met with Phelan, then contacted Gutberlet and Chief of Staff George Mitchell. McMahon indicated that, at Gutberlet's direction, he turned to Blackwell for guidance.

An investigation by Howard County police found that any possible charges against Clark were "unsubstantiated." O'Malley has declined to release the report, and The Sun and WBAL-TV have filed a lawsuit demanding its release. A Baltimore Circuit Court judge has ordered the mayor to release the report, but the Court of Special Appeals is set to hold a hearing this month on the city's appeal.

At the time the Howard County investigation was completed, Baltimore police said they would look into the department's handling of the case.

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