Police drug procedures questioned Internal memo suggests lapses in policy


Allegations that some officers are failing to arrest suspects in possession of small amounts of narcotics and are disposing of the drugs on their own have prompted a top Baltimore police official to remind officers to follow procedures for handling narcotics.

Deputy Commissioner Joseph W. Nixon of the Human Resources Bureau also sent a memorandum to the police commissioner in which he recommended "random inspections in this area to insure the integrity of our system" for handling narcotics.

Mr. Nixon was first notified of the allegations in a May 5 memo from Maj. Kenneth L. Blackwell, head of the Internal Investigation Division.

"More specifically, the allegations suggest that some members of the agency, upon encountering drug suspects and recovering illegal drugs, are disposing of the drugs [if found in minute quantities] and failing to arrest the offenders," Major Blackwell wrote.

A copy of the memo was obtained by The Sun.

The major wrote that some information was obtained through polygraph examinations given during investigations. While taking the tests, several officers admitted that they "disposed of very small amounts of CDS [controlled dangerous substances]" rather than submit them to the Evidence Control Unit as required by departmental policy.

"In justification of their actions, members have offered that 'everyone does it,' " he wrote.

Agent Doug Price, a police spokesman, refused to comment yesterday on whether an internal investigation of the handling of narcotics was being conducted.

Major Blackwell wrote that while the few incidents "might not qualify as a trend, it is my belief that they are of such gravity that immediate steps should be taken to reiterate a member's responsibility(s) [sic] with respect to the handling of CDS."

In response, Mr. Nixon sent a letter on May 6 to Deputy Commissioner Eugene Tanzymore Jr. of the Patrol Bureau asking him to stress to officers the "absolute necessity of following established procedures in the recovery/handling of CDS."

Mr. Nixon also sent a copy of the major's memorandum to Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods with the recommendation that the Staff Inspections Section "conduct random inspections in this area to insure the integrity of our system."

The Staff Inspections Section reviews departmental regulations and guidelines to make certain they are being adhered to. Several street-level officers, who asked that they not be identified, said if police are not making arrests and disposing of small amounts of drugs, it is because an arrest takes officers off patrol for several hours.

The officers -- none of whom admitted disposing of drugs -- said they consider patrolling the streets to be more important.

They said arresting officers have to be in the station for several hours writing the arrest report, handling the evidence and preparing the charges against the suspect.

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