Prompted by what he sees as a flawed policy of rotating veteran officers in and out of top investigative units, a vaunted former Baltimore homicide detective, Gary Childs, joined the Carroll County state's attorney's office yesterday as a child abuse investigator.
"This is a new avenue for me," the nine-year homicide unit veteran said during a news conference in Westminster. "To be perfectly candid, I didn't want to leave the city. It's one of those things."
"One of those things" is Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier's controversial move to rotate officers in the city's top investigative units -- homicide, narcotics, the bomb squad -- back to the streets, which would allow new blood into those squads.
Mr. Childs, 45, and many of his former colleagues in the city's celebrated 47-member homicide squad see the policy as counterproductive and as a slap to veteran police officers who have put, on average, more than a decade of service into the Baltimore Police Department.
"I believe the move is politically motivated," Mr. Childs said of Mr. Frazier's rotation policy. "He's weed-whacking the whole garden just to get at a couple of weeds. It took me 14 years to get to homicide. You don't learn these things overnight."
City police spokesman Sam Ringgold could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mr. Frazier has defended the policy as a way to stem attrition and boost the "raw number of black officers and promotion of black officers."
Mr. Frazier has argued that rotation is the only way to avoid a system in which blacks, women and young officers are routinely excluded from the top jobs.
Mr. Childs said the rotation policy in Baltimore "will be bad for the citizens of the city," but his new boss, Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, was quick to say that "Baltimore's loss is our gain."
"I think that Gary will bring us significant investigative experience. He will be able to transfer his vast knowledge and skill to us."
Mr. Childs, who retired from the Baltimore Police Department Wednesday night after more than 20 years on the force, will be paid about $30,000 a year. He will not get county-provided benefits, Mr. Hickman said.
The homicide investigator joins a staff of five child abuse investigators -- three state police detectives and two state's attorney's investigators -- that was formed a little more than two years ago.
Cpl. Wayne Moffatt -- who, as a state police homicide investigator worked with Mr. Childs in solving the 1991 stabbing death of a North Baltimore woman in a Hampstead cornfield -- said, "We're very lucky to have him. His experience in investigative techniques will be a tremendous help to our unit."
Mr. Childs said he knows little about the details of child sexual abuse investigation. "I'm not going to have any problem talking to the bad guys," Mr. Childs said. "But, unfortunately, all of the child abuse victims I handled in the city were dead."
The members of the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit, as it is called, arrested more than 80 people last year, including 22 pedophiles. Each of its investigators is working on 15 to 20 open cases, a load that prompted the hiring of Mr. Childs, Mr. Hickman said.
Mr. Childs left the city homicide unit after solving more than 60 murders. He has been a supervising investigator on more than 460 slayings in his career as a homicide detective, and he has never called in sick in more than 23 years.