Anne Arundel County police emails reveal how department handles media
Anne Arundel County Chief of Police James E. Teare Sr. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun / March 8, 2012)
Arrested the nephew of an Annapolis mayoral candidate? Run that up the ranks to the chief. A television producer wants to interview a detective about gangs? “HIGHLY” recommend a public information officer sits in and “ensure he stays on course.” Make sure the chief signs off on that, too.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department released hundreds of emails this month detailing interactions with the media. They come as part of a Public Information Act request about how County Executive John R. Leopold’s security detail did their job — the same security detail Leopold’s been accused of misusing for his personal and political gain.
The emails, many from 2009, cover a range of activities. One tries to ensure a crime victim is notified about an arrest before the media tells her and her family. Another orchestrates a press event. Some press announcements wait for a comment from Leopold himself. Another executes instructions from Police Chief James Teare, who is often referred to only by his rank of “Colonel.”
“What do you guys think about giving the media an update on how great our efforts were?” Teare wrote to a subordinate in February 2009 about a successful operation. “They ran stories about the problems, maybe we can show the solution?”
That comment apparently set in motion a public announcement discussed by at least six people before it was released. Department staff paid special attention to getting a quote from Leopold into the press release.
The 2009 emails predate by more than three years last week’s announcement by prosecutors that Teare will retire Aug. 1, and that prosecutors are closing their investigation into his possible role in the criminal allegations against Leopold.
The emails show concerns about how to discuss sensitive topics, and about the department’s image; there’s satisfaction about not getting slammed in an article.
CBS’s 48 Hours Mystery television show sought permission to film DNA work in the crime lab in February 2009 for a segment that included the 1973 slaying of Donna Dustin, a case that remains unsolved to this day.
“This will be positive for the lab,” David Waltemeyer Jr., then-commander of the criminal investigation division wrote to another officer, noting that media have been given access in the past and asking that he quickly forward this request up the ladder.
“Yes sir. I will speak with Colonel about this,” was the reply.
Dave Cordle, chief investigator for the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and who has pursued the Dustin homicide, said this week that 48 Hours didn’t do a segment on the case.