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No criminal charges to be filed against Bel Air police chief, who will remain on paid leave

No criminal charges will be filed against Bel Air’s chief of police after a protective order against him was dropped two weeks ago, the town announced Wednesday following an investigation by the Baltimore County Police Department.
No criminal charges will be filed against Bel Air’s chief of police after a protective order against him was dropped two weeks ago, the town announced Wednesday following an investigation by the Baltimore County Police Department.(MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

No criminal charges will be filed against Bel Air’s chief of police after a protective order was dropped two weeks ago, the town announced Wednesday following an investigation by the Baltimore County Police Department.

However, Bel Air Chief of Police Charles A. Moore Jr. will remain on paid administrative leave until an “internal review process is complete,” according to a statement from the town.

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Bel Air’s town commissioners convened an emergency meeting Wednesday to decide if Moore would stay, go or be disciplined. The meeting was closed to the public and lasted approximately two hours.

The State’s Attorney for Harford County told Town Administrator Jesse Bane and the board of commissioners that “the investigation conducted by the Baltimore County Police Department did not sustain any allegations of criminal conduct on the part of Chief Moore and that, as a result of further review of that report by his office, he would not be pursuing any criminal charges against Chief Moore,” the release states.

Bane and the commissioners concurred that Moore should remain on paid leave until an internal review process is completed. They did not explain what that process would entail.

Commissioners Kevin Bianca and Donna Kahoe, along with Mayor Amy Chmielewski, who attended the closed meeting, declined comment.

Moore was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 29 after his estranged wife filed a temporary protective order against him in Harford County Circuit Court the day before. The two have been separated since 2016, according to court documents. Moore’s annual salary is $115,662.

The order alleged Moore had a physical altercation with his son on Dec. 13 — the teenager had been caught with a vape pen — and pulled his wife over when she grabbed at a bag Moore was carrying, according to the documents. The argument escalated, and his teenage son allegedly hit Moore in the face, the documents state. After being punched, Moore purportedly attempted to choke the teenager, scraping his head in the process.

The order also details other alleged abuse, including arriving unannounced to his wife’s house, sending “belittling text messages” and threatening to “bash her head."

As part of the temporary protective order, Moore had to surrender his firearms, including his service weapon.

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The order against Moore was dismissed on Feb. 4 as part of a consent order he and his wife agreed to in court. The consent order — which functions like a court order that cannot be appealed — was promptly sealed, along with the divorce case between him and his wife.

In weighing the merits of sealing the case, Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert N. Dugan leaned toward secrecy, noting that Moore’s public position and the chance of embarrassment to his teenage son warranted the secrecy.

Dugan was called in to hold the hearing, and an investigation into the allegations against Moore was also farmed out to the Baltimore County Police Department, which did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

The Town of Bel Air said it would wait until all investigations into Moore’s alleged conduct concluded before deciding on the future of his employment.

Deputy Chief of Police Richard J. Peschek, who previously served as the town’s acting police chief in 2015, will serve as the chief of police while Moore is absent.

The Bel Air Police Association also called for an internal investigation into Moore, noting that any other officer would be investigated were they in a similar situation. It is unclear if any internal investigation was done.

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A representative from the police union, when reached by phone Thursday, declined comment for this article.

Moore retired in 2014 from the Maryland State Police after a lengthy career there. He was the captain and executive officer of the state police’s communications support division when he retired, and then became warden of the Harford County Detention Center that same year under then-sheriff Jesse Bane, now Bel Air’s town administrator.

He voluntarily separated from the sheriff’s office in November 2014, a few weeks before Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler took office, prior to taking the job as Bel Air’s chief.

A North Harford High School graduate, Moore took over the Bel Air Police Department following nearly a year of volatility at the top. Longtime Chief Leo Matrangola went on medical leave in October 2014 and died of cancer in July 2015.

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