Police chief grilled

Council wants details of officer's inquiry of Leopold

March 04, 2009|By Julie Scharper and tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.cand Tyeesha Dixon om | Julie Scharper and tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.cand Tyeesha Dixon om,julie.scharper@baltsun.com

In an unusually animated meeting, an Anne Arundel County councilman exhorted the county executive to appear before the council to answer questions about an anonymous call to police that possible sexual activity was taking place in the county executive's government vehicle while it was parked at a shopping mall.

The request came after council members grilled the police chief, Col. James Teare Sr., about how the department responded to the call, which led an officer to County Executive John R. Leopold's black Chevrolet at an Annapolis shopping mall in January.

"He ought to come down here and tell us what happened," said Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks, who, like Leopold, is a Republican. "He's the one that ran a campaign of open and honest government."

The police chief defended the actions of the officer who responded to the call and said that the officer saw no indication that Leopold had been engaged in inappropriate behavior. Officer Melvin Foster initially drove past the county executive's car and then parked in front of it about seven minutes after the call was received. The county executive, who was fully clothed, got out of the vehicle and shook the officer's hand. The officer looked through the windshield and saw no evidence that another person was present.

"I believe that the actions taken by the officer were in keeping with our policy," Teare said. More than 30 police department heads and district commanders attended the meeting to show support for the chief.

The chief said that he had not asked Leopold whether he had been alone in the car. After the meeting, Teare said, "I did not ask him because I was not conducting a criminal investigation."

Middlebrooks suggested that members of the council believe that a county employee had been present with Leopold that day and that her silver-colored sport utility vehicle had been parked next to the county executive's. "We all know whose SUV it was, by the way, but we don't have to go down that road," he said.

The councilman described the situation as "suspicious." "I don't buy it for one minute," he said. "It smells bad."

District 4 Councilman G. James Benoit raised concerns that Leopold's security detail was not with him at the time of the incident. Teare said only that "it's not a 24-hour detail," but he did not give further information.

"That causes me some concerns," Benoit said. "If he's driving around alone, that should frankly bother all of us."

Benoit asked Teare why no field report was written to document the officer's interaction with Leopold.

"Believing that no crime had occurred, there was no reason to do any field reporting," Teare said.

The councilman also questioned why an officer who did not respond to the call was the one to clear it as "unfounded," asking the chief if such a practice is within protocol. Teare said that because the responding officer canceled a request for backup, the backup officer made an "assumption" that the report was unfounded.

District 1 Councilman Daryl Jones asked Chairman Edward R. Reilly what the council's next step would be in resolving the issue so the council could move forward with other business. "I really feel that it would be important for our council to get to the bottom of this issue and then move on."

Reilly responded: "We'll discuss it behind the scenes and see if we want to take action as a body."

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