High-ranking Anne Arundel police official asks for probe of agency

The Anne Arundel County Police Department's second in command said Monday night that he has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate alleged police misconduct related to a criminal indictment against County Executive John R. Leopold.

Deputy Police Chief Lt. Col. Emerson C. Davis testified under oath before the County Council that he requested the probe after last month's indictment. Included in the charges were allegations that Leopold directed his taxpayer-funded security detail to perform personal and political tasks, including compiling dossiers on political enemies.

Davis said he has received no response to his request, made about 10 days ago. Justice Department officials could not be reached for comment Monday night.

"Right now we are dysfunctional as a Police Department," said Davis. "Based on the circumstances that we find ourselves in today, it's awful suspect to say we're following our organizational values.

"This is not just about the [security detail]. This is about the supervisors and the leaders of the Police Department. … This is one of the biggest black eyes we've had on the department in the 35 years I've been here."

Davis' appearance comes a week after Police Chief Col. James E. Teare Sr. testified before the council. Teare, who was subpoenaed and was under oath, declined to answer questions, saying he would be violating the law if he testified about issues he had talked about in secret grand jury proceedings.

Teare has not been charged, but the indictment alleged that he was aware of some of the allegations but took "no effective action."

Both Leopold and Teare declined through spokesmen to comment Monday night.

Following the testimony, Councilman Jerry Walker, a Gambrills Republican, introduced a resolution, recommending the "immediate suspension" of Teare, saying the council is "concerned" about Teare's ability to "function as the head of the police department." The council said it planned to vote on the resolution in two weeks, at its next meeting.

The Maryland state prosecutor charged Leopold, a Republican, last month with four counts of misconduct in office and one count of misappropriation of county funds. The indictment alleged that Leopold directed his security detail to perform tasks such as driving him to frequent sexual rendezvous with a county employee.

Davis, a merit employee who said he is retiring in 120 days, was not subpoenaed by the council, but agreed to testify under oath.

Under questioning from Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, Davis said he saw Teare destroy a file on a state employee who had alleged that Leopold sexually harassed her. Davis said he saw Teare with the file containing information from the statewide criminal records database — the Maryland Criminal Justice Information Service — and asked him about it.

"There was no legitimate public safety reason to have that file, and I expressed my opinion on that," said Davis. "We discussed the issue [and] that it did not meet the criteria of a public safety threat. … He asked me what he should do with the file. …

"I suggested to him that the file be destroyed immediately. … He turned around to the shredder behind his desk. He immediately shredded the document and called a sergeant and told him to do no other investigations."

In May 2009, Marvenise Harris, an employee at the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the state Department of Human Resources, said she was waiting in line in the county government headquarters' cafeteria when Leopold made unwanted advances toward her.

She complained to the county chapter of the NAACP, which forwarded a complaint to the state prosecutor's office. She also complained to the Department of Human Resources.

Leopold said that complaint was dismissed.

In response to an open-records request, the county has released alleged dossiers on three prominent county residents. The county also said it was withholding some information that was obtained through the statewide criminal records database, because it would be illegal to disseminate it to the public.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland criticized the county last week when it declined to release several other requests for documents. The county said it had "no additional records of files (additional to those already produced) … other than those that pertain to the pending criminal proceedings undertaken by the state prosecutor's office."

Councilman John J. Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, pointedly questioned Davis, asking him about past personnel issues, including Davis "being accused of creating a hostile work environment." The questioning resulted in a testy exchange between Davis and Grasso.

"I don't think you want to go there, Mr. Grasso," said Davis.

Grasso then asked if Teare's promotion as chief after 19 years as an officer made him "feel bad inside a little bit? Make you want to grind a stone a little bit? ... I'm just calling it the way I see it. … I watch a little Judge Judy."

Benoit said he planned to vote in favor of the resolution and may call other officers before the council in coming weeks.

"I think we got a lot of insight into just how bad things are in the Police Department right now," said Benoit. "Everybody in Anne Arundel County ought to be very concerned about the leadership being provided by the county executive and the police chief."

Cpl. O'Brien Atkinson, president of the county's largest police union, applauded Davis' request for a Justice Department investigation.

"I have been asked for two months who I thought the next chief of police could be, and I've said the Department of Justice," said O'Brien Atkinson, head of the county's largest police union.

Two Police Department unions, which represent most of the 655 officers, have called for Leopold and Teare to resign.

"I believe the vote of no confidence is a cry out for help," Davis told the council.

Sun reporter Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this report.