Councilman demands action

Discipline is sought for three police officers after bias complaint

February 27, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

A city councilman is demanding that the Police Department take action against three city officers - including the brother of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III - who have yet to be disciplined for internal violations in connection with a federal race discrimination complaint.

Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young sent a letter last week to several high-ranking city officials asking why no action has been taken since charges were sustained early last year against three former homicide detectives - Lt. James W. Hagin Jr., Detective Paul A. Kidd and former Detective Charles E. Bealefeld - stemming from an incident in which a black homicide detective said he was ordered to look at Ku Klux Klan Web sites.

Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department has until March 17 to hand down penalties and that questions about the process are premature.

"There's a process governed by departmental policy and law to adjudicate these issues, and I don't think the councilman has anything to be concerned about," Guglielmi said.

Young's letter is the first time the name of Charles Bealefeld has publicly surfaced in connection with the incident, which drew headlines last year when the initial complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was not involved in the incident but was found to have given a false report about it to investigators, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Bealefeld, a 26-year veteran, was transferred out of homicide to the Southern District's detective unit after the allegation and left the agency last fall to join the Annapolis Police Department.

Annapolis Police Chief Michael A. Pristoop, a former Baltimore police commander, said that a background check on Bealefeld did not turn up the EEOC charge. He declined to comment on whether the finding could affect Bealefeld's current employment.

"I was aware that he's a good police officer and had a good employment record, from the information we received," Pristoop said. "We're very concerned about sustained administrative charges and certainly, depending on the level of seriousness, they can have a bearing on our decision."

Clarke F. Ahlers, an attorney for the detective who filed the complaint, Sgt. Kelvin Sewell, said he is worried about the impending deadline for the department to mete out any punishment, which he believes is March 5. He said he has seen charges overturned in cases because the statute of limitations had expired.

"We're calling attention to this so they can't play dumb down the road," Ahlers said.

Young, who chairs the council's public safety committee, wrote in his letter to Mayor Sheila Dixon, Deputy Mayor Chris Thomaskutty and members of the City Council that the city "cannot afford to have this process ignored" and questioned whether there were "double-standards at work" because of the race of the officers in the case.

Though the police commissioner declined to comment, he indicated last summer that the case was primed for possible action.

"I have a preliminary report from our EEOC director, which has a sustained finding against a few of the officers involved that will be proceeding to a trial board with recommendations for discipline against them," Bealefeld said at the time.

Sewell filed a nine-count complaint, first reported by The Baltimore Examiner, with the EEOC last February, alleging that Hagin ordered him to look at KKK Web sites for an hour in his office after Hagin insisted that the hate group had a presence near Sewell's home.

Hagin was transferred to the Northern District detective unit, while Kidd, who also was found to have interfered with the investigation, works from police headquarters in the Criminal Investigations Division.

The city's EEOC representative sustained charges against each of the three officers, but punishment is decided at the trial board phase, an internal review process in which a complaint is evaluated by other police officers. That has yet to occur.

According to a copy of the department's internal "disciplinary matrix," drawn up in 2002 to ensure punishments are consistent, all officers found to have given false reports or statements face a mandatory penalty of dismissal.

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