Acquitted officer under internal investigation

October 18, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,SUN REPORTER

The Howard County Police Department will continue its internal affairs investigation of a Howard County police officer who was acquitted this week of indecent exposure charges, a spokeswoman for the department said.

On Monday, a Howard County circuit judge ruled Edward Thatcher, a former Baltimore police officer who joined the Howard County force in 2004, not guilty of the charge alleged by a county 911 dispatcher earlier this year.

Thatcher, 31, was accused by Maria Elizabeth Kline of exposing himself to her in March outside the county's 911 center in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

Kline testified that Thatcher told her he had a "uniform malfunction," and as she was standing outside on a cigarette break, he exposed himself.

When asked whether he exposed himself to Kline, Thatcher told prosecutors "no."

Clarke Ahlers, Thatcher's defense attorney, said Kline appeared to have a "fixation" with Thatcher and there was lack of evidence that the event occurred.

After 3 1/2 hours of testimony, Judge Diane O. Leasure ruled that there was a "lack of credible evidence of a crime committed."

Thatcher waived his rights to a trial by jury.

"I think it was a fair verdict given the uncorroborated and unusual accusation," Ahlers said.

Thatcher's is the third case of alleged sexual harassment involving Howard County police officers in the past few years. Last month, Howard County agreed to a settlement of $75,000 to Susan Ensko, a 17-year veteran of the force who said she was subjected to inappropriate remarks. Ensko's lawsuit was similar to the one filed by retired Cpl. Linda Freeman, who received $115,000 in a settlement in 2004.

Thatcher testified that he had been reassigned to another division in the Police Department. Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for the department, said Thatcher will remain "in his current assignment" until the completion of the internal affairs investigation.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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