Baltimore Police commander under investigation for theft from police-community relations nonprofit

A high-ranking Baltimore police commander who founded a nonprofit to improve police-community relations after the city’s 2015 unrest is under investigation for using the charity’s funds to pay for a personal European vacation.

Maj. Kimberly Burrus admitted she was being investigated for theft by the department’s internal affairs section during a December custody hearing for her son. Burrus oversaw robbery and non-fatal shooting investigations for the Baltimore Police Department before being selected for a national fellowship known for grooming the nation’s next police chiefs.

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, confirmed the department is “looking into this matter internally,” but said he was “not at liberty to discuss” the “personnel matter.”

Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, said her office could not comment either because it was an “open and pending matter.”

Neither Burrus nor her attorney responded to requests for comment.

However, Burrus and her now ex-husband, Capt. Torran Burrus — also a Baltimore police commander — revealed the allegations being investigated in testimony at the custody hearing, which was reviewed by The Baltimore Sun.

Kimberly Burrus founded the group Blue Love Across America in 2015 with her then-husband and several other active and retired Baltimore police officers to raise money for barbecues, ice cream socials and other events where police and citizens could “address the complexity of reducing crime and maintaining a positive view of one another,” according to the group’s website.

The launch of the nonprofit came in the wake of the rioting that caused millions of dollars of damage and protests against police brutality following 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death from injuries suffered in police custody. Mosby charged six officers in Gray’s death — none of whom were convicted — and the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation that ultimately determined city police routinely discriminated against residents in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods and violated their constitutional rights.

“During these sensitive times many people have their views about the relationship between law enforcement and community,” Kimberly Burrus wrote in a blog post on the nonprofit’s website in July 2015. “It is one thing to be upset, discouraged and disappointed but we have to be an active participant in change. What have you done to change the current status?”

By 2016, however, the organization was no longer active, and Kimberly and Torran Burrus were in the midst of a divorce. At some point, Torran Burrus — who served on the nonprofit’s board of directors — notified the police department’s internal affairs office that he had found evidence that his wife had misused funds that had been donated to the charity, he said during the Dec. 1 custody hearing.

The evidence was a bank statement that he said he spotted in a recycling bin on his wife’s porch.

“I saw that there was money from the account, this nonprofit that was designed to better the relationships, the trust, repair the trust, between communities and the police department,” Torran Burrus said in court. “Over $2,000 was taken and used to purchase tickets for Kim’s vacation.”

He said he turned the information over to internal affairs because his “name is attached to the nonprofit, and I didn’t want it to appear that, if there was something unscrupulous happening, that I was a part of this.”

Torran Burrus declined through an attorney to comment for this article.

Kimberly Burrus admitted during the hearing to using the nonprofit’s funds to buy plane tickets for her and her two sons. She said she had tried to use her personal credit cards to purchase the flights, but when they didn’t work, she used the nonprofit’s card — and later decided not to pay the money back.

“It was my intention initially to put the money back, but what happened was the taxes were never done on the nonprofit,” she testified. “I was starting to get letters from the state saying that if I didn’t turn in X, Y, Z, then the nonprofit would be closed out. I got a letter from the bank saying that if I didn’t provide certain documentation, that the bank account would be closed out. So I didn’t return the funds.”

Kimberly Burrus did not explain why taxes were not filed for the organization or why the organization’s bank account was going to be closed, but said the funds she’d used for the flights were owed to her as compensation for expenditures she had previously made to cover costs for the nonprofit.

Martin Cadogan, her attorney in the custody and internal affairs cases, asked her if she had spent more on the nonprofit than she had taken out for the flights, and she said she had — including on the group’s website and filing fees for starting the nonprofit.

State business records show Kimberly Burrus filed articles of incorporation for Blue Love Across America in June 2015, but that the business was subsequently forfeited. It is currently listed as “not in good standing” — meaning it has fallen out of compliance with Maryland law.

Akil Hamm, chief of Baltimore City Public Schools Police, served on the nonprofit’s board. He said he was “shocked” by the allegations against Kimberly Burrus when advised of them by The Sun.

“I didn’t touch any of the money. I did attend maybe two or three board meetings that we had, where they did discuss where the finances were, in terms of expenditures, but I didn’t have access to any funds or credit cards or anything like that,” he said. “We met three times well over a year ago and we had one event, and other than that, I haven't been a part of it.”

Ericka Cooper, a retired internal affairs detective who served as vice president of the board, and Capt. Natalie Preston, an active commander and the nonprofit’s treasurer, could not be reached for comment. Preston testified at the hearing that she was questioned by internal affairs and defended Kimberly Burrus.

Torran Burrus said everyone involved in the organization made personal contributions to it, and estimated he had contributed about $500. When Cadogan asked him if Kimberly Burrus had “put out thousands of dollars,” he responded, “Absolutely not.”

Kimberly Burrus was sent to her current fellowship with the International Association of Chiefs of Police by then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, who had completed his own IACP fellowship before being appointed police commissioner in January by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. De Sousa has since resigned after being charged federally with willfully failing to file federal income tax returns for three straight years in 2013, 2014 and 2015. De Sousa has admitted to not filing his tax returns.

The IACP did not respond to requests for comment on the investigation into Kimberly Burrus.

In addition to the allegations against Kimberly Burrus, Torran Burrus testified during the court hearing that he also had filed a 14-page internal affairs complaint against his supervisor, Col. Osborne Robinson, alleging Robinson had harassed him about an affair Robinson was having with Kimberly Burrus by making lewd comments and gestures at work. Torran Burrus said he was on paid leave for more than a year because of stress from the situation, which he claimed the department was ignoring.

Robinson, who previously oversaw patrol and is now in charge of a police integrity unit, denied the allegations.

“I did not harass him at any point, and nor was I ever his direct supervisor,” Robinson said. “There’s always been several layers between us, so it would have been very difficult for me to harass him on a daily basis when he very rarely had to deal with me.”

The police department did not respond to questions about the harassment allegations and whether they are being investigated.

krector@baltsun.com

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