A Howard County police officer was indicted yesterday on charges that he indecently exposed himself in March to a female 911-center employee at the county's administrative headquarters in Ellicott City, according to the indictment and a spokeswoman for police.
The charge against Edward Thatcher, 31, a former Baltimore police officer who joined the Howard County force in February 2004, is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $1,000 fine. Thatcher has been put on administrative duties, and his police powers were suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
The county's 911 center, which is managed by the Police Department, is located in the basement of the George Howard Building on Courthouse Drive. The building is also home to the county executive's office and County Council chambers.
"What I'm told by a prosecutor and a police officer is that a woman in the 911 center alleged that when she went out on a smoke break, he exposed himself to her," said Thatcher's attorney, Clarke Ahlers.
Little else is known about the circumstances surrounding the incident because a search warrant for Thatcher's cell phone was sealed and the one-page indictment originated with a grand jury, whose proceedings are closed and do not generate traditional charging documents.
Ahlers said that he has interviewed his client but has not seen the indictment, police report or warrant. He also said that his client, who lives in Pasadena, plans to turn himself in to sheriff's deputies today.
If Thatcher is found guilty, the case could raise further questions about the treatment of women within the county Police Department. Since 2002, two female officers have sued the department for sexual harassment, accusing the agency and former Police Chief Wayne Livesay of tolerating a male "locker room" atmosphere. Livesay retired May 31 to run for a seat on the Howard County Council.
The county settled the first lawsuit for $115,000. The second case is pending.
Concerning the Thatcher case, Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for police, said, "We're pleased that this employee felt comfortable coming forward to make the report as she did, and we think that [comfort] is indicative of the kind of environment we have here."
Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for Howard County State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone, said that the case will be tried in Circuit Court, which is normally reserved for more serious felony cases, because of the "sensitive" nature of the case. Prosecutors are expected to request a $5,000 bond, Kirwan said.