A 24-year veteran with Baltimore police is charged with assault, false imprisonment and misconduct after Commissioner Michael Harrison said he wrongfully chased after a man who had criticized the officer’s arrest tactics.
Sgt. Ethan Newberg, 49, a 24-year veteran with the Baltimore Police Department who was the second-highest-paid city employee in fiscal year 2018 after making $243,000, is alleged to have chased after and grabbed a man who had commented on the officer’s arrest tactics while doing a warrant check on the 2300 block of Ashton St. on May 30.
Harrison said Newberg told the department he was in the middle of running a warrant check when a second person “verbally challenged and became combative and aggressive.”
However, Harrison said body camera footage shows otherwise as he said it shows the second man talking to Newberg and then “walking calmly away after offering his opinion that Sgt. Newberg should have not placed the suspect on a wet sidewalk.”
Newberg chased after the man and grabbed him, Harrison said, and a second officer tackled the man and placed him in handcuffs.
Harrison said he saw nothing to suggest that Newberg was provoked by the second man, justifying the charges.
“The man did nothing to provoke Sgt. Newberg whose actions were not just wrong, but deeply disturbing and illegal,” Harrison said. “It’s no secret we have a lot of work to do to rebuild our relationship with our community members and to gain their trust.”
Harrison said he was made aware of the incident this week by members of the department’s Public Integrity Bureau and that after viewing the video, he found Newberg’s actions “very disturbing.”
Newberg is being suspended without pay, Harrison said.
The only city employee who was paid more than Newberg last year was another police sergeant, William Harris Jr., who made $250,000. Because of overtime, police officers are often the city’s highest paid employees.
The commissioner said officers were arresting Newberg while he and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby held a news conference at 10 p.m. at police headquarters.
Attempts to reach Newberg were unsuccessful Thursday and no attorney was yet listed as representing him in court records. Newberg was released on an unsecured $200,000 bond.
The officer was hired in June 1995 and most recently assigned to the Southwestern District.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young issued a statement saying: "I fully support the actions taken by Commissioner Michael S. Harrison. An essential part of police reform in Baltimore involves restoring the trust between the community and members of the police department. In my view, the actions taken by the officer in question are unbecoming of someone in law enforcement and will not be tolerated.”
Young said he has long championed police reform and that the city is committed to reforming our police department “and I will accept nothing short of that goal."
Council President Brandon Scott said he also saw the body camera footage and agreed with Harrison that the officer’s actions are “disturbing.”
“The officer’s actions portrayed in the video are unacceptable, weak and counterproductive,” Scott wrote in a statement. “We will not make progress on the crime fight until Baltimore’s communities can have their faith restored in the Department.”
Harrison did not answer whether this was the first time Newberg had acted wrongfully during his time at the department.
Mosby said she was grateful to see the charges brought against Newberg.
“I’ve been extremely clear about my office’s mission to apply one standard of justice regardless of one’s race, sex, religion, ZIP code and even occupation,” she said. “I’m grateful to the new police commissioner that has expeditiously ensured that that one standard of justice is applied.”
The charges come after another Baltimore police officer, Michael O’Sullivan, was indicted on charges of perjury and official misconduct as prosecutors say he provided false testimony related to a criminal case in which he was sworn witness in June.
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Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson and Lillian Reed contributed to this article.