Police Seek Cardin-flap Inquiry

State Delegate Apologizes For Wedding Proposal That Made National News For Using On-duty Officers

August 19, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,peter.hermann@baltsun.com

State Del. Jon S. Cardin, under fire for using city police officers in an intricately staged marriage proposal, apologized on Tuesday to the police commissioner, who told reporters he's ordered detectives to find out "what resources were used, how they were used and who was involved."

"He offered an apology for putting the Baltimore Police Department in this kind of predicament and spotlight," Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told reporters.

Cardin, who released a statement on Monday that he was focused on his soon-to-be fiance and could have used better judgment, did not return calls for comment. His legislative aide, Jonathan Schwartz, said the delegate was on a previously planned vacation and difficult to reach.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's editions misidentified the area that Democratic Del. Jon S. Cardin represents; it is northwest Baltimore County.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

The story about Cardin's Aug. 7 proposal to Megan Homer, aboard a boat in the Inner Harbor and using on-duty marine and helicopter officers in a mock raid, made national news and prompted hundreds of comments from readers and constituents on Internet blogs and bulletin boards.

Those comments viciously attack and mock the lawmaker from Northwest Baltimore as arrogant, wasteful, childish, exhibiting politics as usual, and, perhaps worst of all, as having pulled off one of the most unromantic and frightening marriage proposals of all time - with Homer under the threat of arrest and seeing the ring just as she thought a cop was about to slap on handcuffs. She said "yes."

Cardin, in his statement on Monday, promised to reimburse the city for any money spent on his behalf, but officials have not yet been able to tabulate a figure. Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Mayor Sheila Dixon, said she is more concerned with learning how the incident happened and who approved it than getting a check from the delegate.

"She recognizes that the helicopter was only over the area for a short period of time," Peterson said.

Robert F. Cherry, the president of the city police union, said that just because the officers participated in the stunt did not mean that they were unavailable to perform their job duties. If the officers are charged with internal infractions, Cherry said, the union is ready to "aggressively defend" them.

"What's getting lost in this conversation is the fact that both units were working in and in the area and in service, ready to handle any 911 requests," he said. "The incident in no way compromised safety or the commitment of those officers to the citizens of the city."

But police officials have said the officers were diverted from their duties to help a politician with a private matter.

That's different, Bealefeld said, than requests the department fields daily for the helicopter to land at community events, the police dogs to be brought to a school or the motorcycle unit to escort a funeral procession.

Bealefeld noted that the department is soliciting private funds to maintain the police horse unit and trying to cope with a tight budget, and the image of officers squandering their time on a frivolous endeavor on taxpayer time could be viewed poorly by residents feeling besieged by crime.

But he added that residents "will understand bad judgment or human error differently than they would understand systemic waste or fraud or corruption."

Police have said that no commander authorized the officers to help Cardin. Said Bealefeld, "I don't know though whether this is beyond the scope of a couple of officers who used poor judgment."

Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this report.

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