After serving eight months in federal custody for his role in a towing scandal, former Baltimore police officer David Reeping is fighting to get his job back.
Reeping contends that investigators used him as a scapegoat to avoid accusations of racial profiling from Hispanic and African-American officers convicted in the scandal, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"I was the token 'Caucasian' to stack the deck against them," Reeping told the commission, according to a copy of the claim obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
A city lawyer called Reeping's allegations "absurd" and urged the commission to reject the claim, according to his correspondence with the commission.
Assistant City Solicitor Dorrell A. Brooks told the commission in a letter earlier this year that another white officer was investigated in the scheme and cleared of wrongdoing in May 2013. "Reeping did not receive unfair treatment because of his race," Brooke wrote.
Police and city officials declined to discuss Reeping's allegations, saying personnel matters are confidential. The commission also declined to comment.
The scandal netted about 60 officers between 2009 and 2011, leading to 16 convictions and numerous suspensions.
Officers illegally funneled the owners of broken-down and damaged vehicles to a Rosedale towing service and body shop in exchange for cash, according to federal court records. In some cases, officers falsified police reports and even added damage to cars to boost the amounts that could be claimed from insurance companies.
Of the other 15 officers convicted of extortion or conspiracy charges, 12 were Hispanic and three were African-American, Brooks' letter said. Twelve resigned and three others were terminated, it said.
He noted in the letter that Reeping, hired in 2007, cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty to extortion in April 2011, saying that "his conviction precludes his employment as a law enforcement officer."
In March 2012, Reeping was the first officer to face punishment. At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake called Reeping "among the least, if not the least, culpable" officer in the scandal.
Reeping, whose 2011 salary was listed as $50,919 in the city's online records, requested a new trial last August based on the same allegations contained in the EEOC complaint, but Blake denied the request, court records show. He served his sentence at Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute, which has a minimum-security camp.
The former patrolman also asserts that 14 other officers involved in the scheme have continued to be paid while on suspension since 2011 and are assigned to department headquarters.
But police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said 10 of the 14 officers returned to duty within the last year.
"We have four members who remain on paid suspension pending a decision to prosecute by the state's attorney's office," he said.
This week, Reeping declined to discuss his EEOC claim at length. He also questioned the fate of the other 30 officers not charged but entangled in the scandal.
"I admitted my mistake from the beginning and didn't fight it," he said, noting that he was the first to cooperate with investigators. "I made a mistake, but I shouldn't be treated differently."
Before pleading guilty to accepting $1,000 from the body shop, Reeping rejected a plea agreement because he only "openly admitted" to accepting $675, according to his EEOC complaint.
The complaint said he then requested a trial, but a court-appointed attorney warned him that federal prosecutors would push for 20 years behind bars. Reeping said prosecutors lumped him in with the worst offenders in the towing scandal to send messages to the minority officers.
"I was selected to be placed with the major players by increasing my involvement in the scheme based on my race," Reeping wrote. "The tactic appeared to work because the other minority defendants started accepting plea agreements from the United States Attorney."
Reeping wrote that he should have been treated more like officers Marcos Urena and Eric Ivan Ayala Olivera. Urena accepted a plea agreement for theft under $500 and probation before judgment.
The misdemeanor charge prevented the department from firing Urena, Brooks' letter said, noting that Maryland law only allows agencies to fire officers "without granting them a hearing if the officer incurs a felony conviction."
Prosecutors dismissed all charges against Olivera in August 2011. At the time, prosecutors declined to explain the move.
Reeping told the commission the charges were dropped because Olivera cooperated with prosecutors — just as he did.
The department confirmed that Olivera is still employed. His charges no longer appear in federal court records. Brooks' response did not say why the charges were dismissed.
Brooks also wrote that two other officers are awaiting internal disciplinary hearings and will be terminated if found guilty.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun