Perjury case in official's history

City police attempted in 1999 to fire officer who is now chief of force that protects state buildings

August 10, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,Sun Reporter

The man recently promoted to be chief of the state Department of General Services Police had once been recommended for termination from the Baltimore Police Department after an administrative board found him guilty of perjury and making a false statement in a court document.

A Circuit Court judge ruled that the police trial board held in 1999 had erred by not allowing Philip Palmere to present two character witnesses. The court ordered a new hearing into allegations that he reported seeing a man - whom he had arrested - toss a gun to the ground when he had actually found the weapon in an apartment.

The department dismissed the charges and Palmere resigned from the force, ending a 15-year career in what his attorney described as a mutual agreement between the two sides. Prosecutors then dropped the gun case, sparing the defendant what could have been a 30-year prison sentence, and later dropped charges against another man Palmere had arrested.

Two years later, Palmere joined the DGS Police, a 200-member force responsible for protecting state office buildings in Baltimore and Annapolis, including the State House.

Dave Humphrey, a DGS spokesman, said in a statement that the department performed "a full background investigation, including a review of his Baltimore City Police personnel file. He retired in good standing with a service pension from the city force."

Christine Hansen, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, said that Palmere has performed well since he was hired.

A public Circuit Court file containing Palmere's appeal of his trial board conviction details the case made against him and the city Police Department's attempts to fire him. The board of his peers recommended that Palmere be suspended for 150 days for misconduct, making a false statement and two counts of improperly filing a report.

Then-police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier decided the punishment wasn't harsh enough. In an August 1999 letter that is contained in the court file, he wrote, "The egregious nature of the false statement requires termination." A police commissioner can overrule punishment recommendations by trial boards.

Secretary of General Services Alvin C. Collins declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this article. He elevated Palmere to chief of the DGS Police on June 25. Three weeks later, the department issued a news release noting that the new chief has "brought new energy and new ideas" to the force.

Palmere referred calls to Michael Davey, the Fraternal Order of Police union attorney who represented him at his city police trial board. The attorney said the city department dismissed the internal charges and he believes his client's internal investigation file should have no bearing on his ability to lead the DGS police force.

"He was never charged criminally with perjury," Davey said. "He was never charged criminally with anything."

Baltimore City internal affairs detectives began investigating Palmere and his partner, Drew Dorbert, after they arrested Tavon Anderson in 1996 on gun and drug charges. Palmere wrote a statement of probable cause - a legal document to justify charges - that he saw Anderson throw a gun from his waistband and then watched it "spinning on the floor," according to court documents.

It was later revealed, according to court documents, that Palmere found the gun under a cabinet in the defendant's East Baltimore apartment. Drugs were also found in the apartment, he wrote.

Then-Assistant State's Attorney Mary Koch dropped charges against Anderson when she learned about the inconsistencies in the statement of charges. Palmere and Dorbert were brought up on internal charges. Dorbert retired from the Police Department before his trial board.

Palmere said in his May 1999 trial board hearing that he based his statement of probable cause on his partner's incident report, which said the defendant tossed the gun. Palmere said he only signed the statement of probable cause because he trusted the judgment of his partner.

"Officer Palmere stated he believed his decision to be a poor one," according to minutes taken during trial board and contained in the Circuit Court file.

After the gun and drugs were found, Palmere said, Anderson became worried that a drug boss would accuse him of cooperating with police. The defendant "began to cry stating that he was going to be killed ... for giving up the gun," according to a brief filed in Palmere's defense.

But, Koch, the prosecutor, said the officers could have protected the defendant without providing a false statement. "All he had to do was write a vague statement of charges then see the prosecutor," Koch said, according to the minutes kept in a court file.

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