Spurred by complaints of worsening street-level police corruption, Baltimore Councilman Martin O'Malley called last night for a thorough review of the department's internal investigation procedures to determine if they need to be revamped.
Mr. O'Malley charged that federal authorities have refused to participate in joint investigations with city police because they fear that their targets will be tipped off. He also speculated that last year's departmental reorganization weakened the unit that investigates police misconduct.
"There is not a single knowledgeable person in federal, state or local law enforcement today who will deny that we have a growing problem with street-level corruption," said the 3rd District Democrat in introducing a resolution requesting the review.
"Not because of the vast majority of honest, hard-working and dedicated officers, but because of the few."
He questioned the shift of an intelligence unit that used to report directly to the police commissioner to the control of the Criminal Investigations Division. When it was independent, the councilman said, the unit provided a much-needed checkup on investigations.
His charges were rebutted by Sam Ringgold, a spokesman for the Police Department.
Mr. Ringgold said the reassignment of the intelligence unit in March "just made sense" and in no way undermined probes of police misconduct.
"This department takes corruption and the allegations of corruption very seriously," Mr. Ringgold said.
"In the long run, what we need is to have people working together, not pointing fingers at each other."
This summer, eight officers were removed from a drug unit in the Western District amid charges they pocketed cash from drug traffickers.
In September, an Eastern District police officer was charged with extorting $3,000 from a drug dealer.
The turmoil in the Western District drug unit cost it some sorely needed federal assistance from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
But Mr. Ringgold said he's not aware that any of the other eight police districts have lost grants.
Mr. O'Malley also renewed his call last night for an experienced and tough leader to inspire the city's crime-battered police force.
He previously suggested raising the commissioner's salary from $91,400 to $120,000 to attract the best and brightest candidate nationwide.