Harold “Mo” Lloyd III said he was appalled to learn an Annapolis police officer was charged with misconduct after an internal investigation found he failed to investigate a dozen crimes and allegedly tried to hide the incomplete cases.
But when Lloyd, an Annapolis resident who helped organize some of last summer’s protests against police violence aimed at people of color, heard the majority of sexual assault victims with neglected cases were Black —“that took me to another level.”
“(Police) have a lot of work to do to in order to fix their wrongs. And if they don’t step up and do their due diligence, there will forever be a disconnect,” Lloyd said. “Because there is no trust, and a lot of the community members feel like they aren’t being protected.”
Police haven’t said much about the 12 victims but said they are of varying races. Police leaders don’t know why Tavel failed to investigate the cases, and while they described the race of the sex crime victims as “troubling” they don’t believe race was a primary factor.
Four of the five rape and sexual offense victims are Black; two cases involve juvenile victims, a 12-year-old Black girl and an 8-year-old white boy.
“I’m pretty sure that the elephant in the room would be ‘Why did ... African American victims’ cases fail to get investigated properly?’” Deputy Chief Stanley Brandford said in an exclusive interview with The Capital Wednesday.
Police Chief Edward Jackson said he aimed to build trust with city residents by being transparent about the charges against Cpl. Gwynne Tavel.
While Annapolis elected officials and community activists say accountability and transparency are praiseworthy, many add that Tavel’s actions will strain already tense relations between the Black community and police.
“We have to use this moment to really take a hard look at the biases and the perceptions that we have,” said Del. Shaneka Henson, D-Annapolis. “Who we think, nationally, deserves to be protected and who we’re willing to go the extra mile for, and whose cases got closed without a second look.”
Tavel, 34, faces four counts of misconduct in office for the failed sexual assault cases. Police say he attempted to hide the incomplete cases by using his authority as a supervisor to change their status in an electronic records system. An internal investigation discovered Tavel closed eight more cases without evidence that an investigation occurred.
The cases include five sex offenses, two of which involve juvenile victims and suspects, two motor vehicle thefts, two burglaries, a robbery, an assault and a shooting.
Annapolis police say Tavel’s misconduct continued undetected from 2017 to 2019 because the department lacked internal protocols, such as routine case reviews. Detectives are overworked and thinly staffed, police say.
They’re tasked with investigating an array of crimes rather than assigned to a specific unit, such as a special victims team. Jackson said the force has 10 vacancies on a 114-person force. Hiring additional officers would improve efficiency, Jackson said.
Police declined to say if Tavel’s supervisor was facing discipline.
Tavel, currently on active duty with the D.C. National Guard, joined the Annapolis Police Department in August 2015 during the tenure of then-Chief Michael Pristoop, after working for the Baltimore Police Department. He was assigned to the criminal investigations unit in July 2017 under then-Chief Scott Baker. He became a supervisor when promoted to corporal in September 2019, two months after Jackson was appointed chief.
Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, believes the misconduct charges reflect the police department’s progress in forging positive relationships with residents. But it also alerts the City Council of the urgent need for police reforms, such as an established civilian review board, he said.
Annapolis is in the process of creating the board. An advisory panel tasked with developing the structure began meeting in December.
Crime victims who felt their cases were not being pursued could approach a familiar face on the review board for help, Gay said.
Henson, who represented Gay’s ward on the council before being appointed to the House of Delegates, agreed a review board would help residents feel empowered or embraced by the justice system. Trust could be improved faster, she said, since community members that are already trusted are a part of the disciplinary review process.
While the panel will involve the police and will seek feedback from the department about its creation, it will be independent and not controlled by police or a political body. Jackson has offered support for the proposal and said it builds credibility for officers in the community and helps residents better understand what the police do.
Investments in community policing can also help Annapolis begin to heal, Gay said, by spending money on mental health and counseling services that reach residents in their communities.
“I can’t imagine being in that situation of vulnerability of telling your story to an officer, expecting some justice, or expecting just to be heard and protected — only to be denied justice,” Gay said. “It will definitely create a lack of trust but again I think that it is our job to continue to try to mend those wounds.”
Filing criminal charges against Tavel is a departure from the way officer misconduct has been handled in Annapolis’ past.
In 2014, a Prince George’s man, Towhee Sparrow, claimed in a lawsuit Annapolis police officers used a racial slur and excessive force in detaining him while they searched for a suspect in an armed assault.
He was released after the victims pointed out to police that he was Black while their assailant was not. A federal jury found that the officers did not violate Sparrow’s rights in 2018.
In 2017, Cpl. Duane Daniels took $1,500 from Annapolis resident Kennethel Cherry-Bey while arresting him. Cherry-Bey later sued the department.
Baker, who took over as chief after the mayor fired former chief Michael Pristoop, called Daniels’ action “not acceptable” when the incident became public. Daniels retired while under investigation for the incident after a review by the county State’s Attorney’s Office determined there were no grounds for criminal charges.
The city paid back Cherry-Bey for the missing money, with police admitting it was mishandled. Daniels paid the city back $1,500.
Mayor Gavin Buckley later fired Baker as chief citing poor relationships in high-crime communities.
Buckley cited Jackson’s mindset as a former police inspector general for discovering Tavel’s actions and added that he was glad the police discovered the closed cases and took swift action.
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“It’s hard to understand we weren’t helping,” Buckley said.