Anne Arundel County Executive Laura A. Neuman has launched an investigation into allegations that county Police Chief Larry Tolliver used homophobic slurs and retaliated against officers whose testimony led to her predecessor's criminal conviction for misconduct.
County Councilman Jamie Benoit called for the investigation in a letter to Neuman in which he recounted allegations from officers that Tolliver moved the detectives to less desirable positions and used the anti-gay term "fag."
Tolliver denied any wrongdoing. He told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that the personnel changes were not demotions, but part of a broader effort to fix the department after more than two years of turmoil stemming from former County Executive John R. Leopold's misuse of his police security detail.
Benoit, the most vocal council critic of Leopold, wrote to Neuman that Tolliver was "exacting a bizarre and unreasoned form of retribution against the very officers that led to the removal of the most corrupt elected official in our county's history."
"No one should stand for this type of behavior," he added. "In this case, no elected official should stand by idly and watch yet another police chief wrack the department with more ethical misconduct."
The county reviews all personnel complaints as a matter of policy. Neuman, who was appointed county executive by the council in February after Leopold resigned, declined to comment on what she said was a personnel matter. But she added that "there's a zero tolerance policy as far as discrimination."
"We don't know what the facts are yet because it's just too soon," she said.
Tolliver said in an interview that the officers who testified against Leopold were among many who were reassigned after he took over the agency last year.
"It bothers me that they think it's all about them," he said. "I came in to a mess in this department."
Benoit said the allegations about the anti-gay comments came from a personnel complaint, which has not been made public.
Tolliver said he supports "a culture of diversity." Asked about the allegations, he said, he does not recall "everything I've ever said."
"Do I joke around with the officers? Yes," he said.
"I'm not a homophobic," Tolliver added. "I'm not going to question anyone's sexual orientation. It's none of my business, and it's a personal issue."
Benoit wrote in his letter that the author of the personnel complaint alleged that Tolliver "referred to a person as a 'rump ranger'" — which Benoit described as "derogatory slang used to describe a homosexual male."
Benoit wrote that the complaint author also alleged that Tolliver looked at a photo of an officer and remarked, "I didn't know that you were a fag."
Benoit wrote that the complaint was filed Monday by one of the detectives assigned to Leopold's security detail. The officer was among five who testified during Leopold's criminal trial that the two-term county executive had used his taxpayer-funded security detail to perform campaign tasks and to drain his urinary catheter bag.
Leopold, a former state legislator in Maryland and Hawaii, was found guilty in January of two counts of criminal misconduct in office and resigned as county executive.
A representative from the Fraternal Order of Police union confirmed that an officer filed a complaint against Tolliver on Monday but declined to name the officer or discuss the nature of the complaint. Calls to the county's personnel office were not returned.
The five officers who testified in the Leopold trial have been reassigned from the intelligence division that oversaw the county executive's security.
In one case, Benoit wrote, the detective was told his position as lieutenant had been eliminated. A month later someone else was given that same title.
Leopold appointed Tolliver, a retired former state police superintendent, to take over the county Police Department last summer after the retirement of then-Chief James S. Teare under duress.
Detectives on Leopold's security detail told a grand jury last year that they complained about the executive to Teare, but Teare didn't intervene to stop the misconduct.
The Maryland state prosecutor's office investigated, and police unions and then the County Council issued votes of no confidence in Teare. His retirement ended the state probe; he was not charged with any offense.
Carrie Evans, executive director of the gay-rights group Equality Maryland, said the allegations of slurs by Tolliver, if true, are "disappointing."
But she added that the alleged attitudes are "not unexpected" in the law enforcement profession.
"Many remain closeted within the force in fear of having this kind of treatment and not having a fellow officer back you up," Evans said.
She said the allegations are troubling because they concern the chief. If true, she said, they give "implicit permission to anyone in the force to say those things."