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Baltimore County Police says investigation into 'racist,' 'hateful' tweets tied to one of its officers is ongoing

The administrative investigation into a Baltimore County Police Department sergeant who’s been tied to tweets that have been described as “racist” and “hateful” is still going on, nearly three full months after county officials confirmed an investigation had been initiated.

Police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson said in late April that he expected a Maryland Public Information Act request, made by The Baltimore Sun Media Group to view the results of the investigation and communications related to the investigation, would be denied because the investigation is not complete.

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The tweets, which belonged to a Twitter account, @TedWaga, that self-identified as a Baltimore County Police Department employee, have since been deleted. Screenshots of the account show @TedWaga using homophobic slurs and calling for “modern day crusades.”

Vinson confirmed that a Sgt. Waga is employed by Baltimore County and assigned to the Cockeysville precinct, but declined to comment on Waga’s status.

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One tweet from the account asked: “What would happen if the men in America took action and began rounding up illegals and tossing them back over the border?”

A previous post stated: “Illegals are responsible for rapes and murders of thousands of Americans.”

Other tweets shared by the account called Muslim-American congresswomen “the enemy within” and “cockroaches.”

When reached by a reporter in February, Waga did not deny the account was his, but never directly said he operated it. Before it was deleted, the account linked to a campaign website Waga operated when he ran for Congress in 2012 and made several references to being a police officer in Baltimore County.

At the time, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said, “Hateful, violent, and abusive language has no place in our government or society and I have zero tolerance for it,” and confirmed the investigation.

Three months later, a spokesman for Olszewski said the county executive stood by his earlier statement and “will reserve further comment while this matter is continuing to be investigated.”

Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said of the three-month inquiry that two months would “seem like probably about as long” as an investigation such as this should take, but added that it would depend, ultimately, on factors “unknown” to him.

“It is the case that the majority of cases that go to internal affairs basically remain unresolved,” Kenney said, whether that’s because of difficulty in gathering evidence or because of rules and policies surrounding how officers accused of misconduct can be interviewed or investigated.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the Baltimore County Police Department is investigating a Twitter account, bearing the name of a county police sergeant, that has posted messages advocacy groups called “outrageous” and “blatantly racist.”

“If the account was taken down, I would assume that gathering that physical evidence would become difficult then, unless somebody saved the actual tweets,” Kenney said. “Getting access to that, and being able to prove that it actually happened, could be problematic.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and CASA of Maryland, an organization that advocates for Latin American immigrants in Maryland, called the tweets “outrageous” and “blatantly racist,” respectively, at the time.

Zainab Chaudry, director of Maryland outreach with CAIR, said this week that she had not yet heard any updates on the status of the investigation and called for transparency into the process.

“It’s important for communities to know that law enforcement is committed to protecting and serving all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or any other distinguishing characteristics without any bias,” Chaudry said.

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Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, lead regional organizer for CASA, said she “absolutely” thinks the officer tied to the tweets should be fired. She originally called for such discipline in February, when the investigation was confirmed.

“If there’s not disciplinary actions that happen to this officer, this is not going to be good in community police relations,” she said.

The Baltimore County Police Department is conducting an “on-going administrative investigation” into Sgt. Ted Waga, who is allegedly tied to a series of tweets that have been called “hateful” and “blatantly racist.”

Both organizations also called for sensitivity and diversity training in the department. CAIR said it has been in talks with the county police department about diversity and sensitivity training, and CASA said it would be open to being a part of those discussions. Baltimore County does provide new officers with more than 20 hours of training classified as “bias based.”

Kenney said diversity training in police work was important, but that many departments don’t do it well. Good training, he said, focuses not on trying to make officers “cultural anthropologists” who intimately understand every culture or ethnicity they might encounter in the line of duty, but on understanding the “importance of diversity” and respecting different cultures.

Baltimore County is in the midst of selecting a new police chief. The search process has included two community meetings and input from the local police union.

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