City jail chief seeks to fire 3 in double escape


Citing an internal investigation, the head of the Baltimore City Detention Center yesterday sought to fire three correctional officers for committing "a series of violations" that contributed to the July 13 escape of two prisoners.

LaMont W. Flanagan, commissioner of the state Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, said one of the three officers was absent from his post sometime between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. that morning, when John Wagner, 21, and Edward Cooper, 32, lowered themselves to Constitution Street with a rope of braided bedsheets. Both have been recaptured.

Mr. Flanagan also said the officers, whom he would not identify, reported inaccurate times on logs of security checks. He said the officers also failed to check windows and grilles adequately.

"This is a very simple job -- to watch and observe inmates and take appropriate action upon seeing anything unusual," Mr. Flanagan said. "It is a violation of the public trust not to carry out those duties."

Mr. Flanagan suspended the three officers, including one supervisor, without pay. He also started termination proceedings against them. If the officers contest the firings, the next step will be an administrative hearing.

Chester Wilton, a representative of the Maryland Correctional Union, which represents about 1,500 officers around the state, said he did not know whether the officers would dispute the charges, but said the union might question the action regardless.

Two other officers on the overnight shift were issued letters of warning and will receive additional training Mr. Flanagan said. Their violations of procedure were less serious, he said.

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