The Baltimore Police Department is fighting the release of a secret audit that found a number of officers had misrepresented their educational credentials and wrongly received pay benefits as a result, new court filings show.

The audit was performed in April 2014 after an anonymous tip to Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts revealed that a high-ranking commander had used a bogus degree from a diploma mill to earn a pay bonus. The commander, Lt. Col. Clifton McWhite, resigned and was later criminally charged with theft.

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Since last year, police officials have declined to respond to questions from The Baltimore Sun about such a review, and would not confirm its existence.

But in new court papers filed in McWhite's case, officials acknowledge the audit and say it "identifies named BPD employees that have had their educational pay benefits discontinued for not having the required credentials to receive said pay benefits, and who have now been referred to" internal affairs.

The acknowledgement comes from an attorney for the Police Department who wants the audit kept confidential. Its existence apparently was initially confirmed by a special prosecutor who was brought in to handle McWhite's case, due to personal ties between State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and McWhite. A spokeswoman for the office said in January that Mosby and McWhite are friends.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chair of the public safety committee, said the agency should "absolutely" release the audit.

"If there's been an audit done on the use of city taxpayer funds to see how people are earning city taxpayer dollars, people should have the right to see it," he said.

The Police Department did not respond to a call and an email seeking comment.

McWhite's attorney, Ivan Bates, wants the audit because he is arguing that McWhite is being selectively prosecuted because he is black. No other officers have been criminally charged as a result of the review.

"It is the defendant's understanding that other similarly situated white officers who have been accused of receiving a fraudulent educational incentive by the internal affairs division have, in fact, not been charged with theft as Lieutenant Colonel McWhite, a black male, has been in the instant matter," Bates wrote in a motion seeking the audit.

Bates also cites two white police commanders who were the focus of an unrelated investigation but not criminally charged for allegedly falsifying overtime slips. That case had previously attracted the attention of Scott, who initiated the investigation in 2012 and has been critical of the way it was handled. Both commanders continue to work for the department.

The special prosecutor, Steven Kroll, argues that the claim of selective prosecution is "immaterial" to whether McWhite wrongly obtained educational benefits.

Police Department attorney Brent Schubert said in court documents that records of which officers receive educational incentives are personnel records and should not be disclosed. He is asking the court to require the document be kept confidential if it is turned over to Bates.

Salary information for city employees is public record and posted on the city's OpenBaltimore site.

But police have refused to provide detailed information requested by The Sun about McWhite's promotions and corresponding pay raises. Police also have not provided information on how much educational credit incentives are worth or what requirements are necessary to receive such bonuses.

The audit is dated April 16, 2014, five days after McWhite resigned. At the time, police officials said he was leaving for "personal reasons."

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Documents filed in the McWhite case show Deputy Police Commissioners Jerry Rodriguez and Dean Palmere had confronted McWhite about an anonymous letter sent to Batts that claimed McWhite had a bogus degree, along with other allegations.

"When questioned regarding his college transcript, Lt. Col. McWhite admitted that he does not hold a bachelor of science degree," Palmere wrote in an April 11, 2014, letter. "In fact, his transcript was inaccurate and falsified."

McWhite resigned at that meeting.

Bates has said that McWhite took classes online at what he thought was a legitimate school, and the school had sent his transcript to the Police Department.

Bates said Rodriguez failed to advise McWhite of his rights before the discussion, and repeatedly told McWhite that if he confessed, Rodriguez would "fix it." Bates said that amounts to "coercion."

McWhite was charged in October 2014 with taking $1,700 in extra pay. He stopped receiving the credit after he was promoted to commander several years ago. Bates has said McWhite offered to pay the money back but was not given the opportunity.

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