Two Baltimore police officers arrested in a department sting operation last week were ordered suspended without pay yesterday as a lawyer for one proclaimed his client's innocence.
Officers Michael S. McNamara, 23, and Frederick Lincoln, 29, are each charged with one count of felony theft after police accused them of shaking down a suspected drug dealer -- who actually was an undercover detective.
"I believe that the charges are bogus," said Henry L. Belsky, a police union lawyer who is representing Officer McNamara. Officer Lincoln is being represented by another lawyer.
"I believe that the state's attorney's office is stretching it to make these charges stick," Mr. Belsky said. "Once they review it, they will see the errors of their ways."
Mr. Belsky and Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, complained that the police commander who ordered Officer McNamara's pay revoked did not review the details of the case or read the officer's voluntary statement made to internal investigators.
His lawyers said they have not been allowed to read the statement or view a videotape the department says it shot of its undercover sting operation Friday.
"They are suspending [Officer McNamara] with blinders on," said Herb Weiner, a lawyer in Mr. Belsky's firm. "If [the tape] shows our guy reaching into somebody's pocket and taking money, then we don't have anything to complain about. I don't think it shows that."
Officer Lincoln's lawyer, Warren G. Mix, would only say yesterday that his client's version of what happened differs greatly from what police are alleging. He would not comment further.
Police spokesman Sam Ringgold said he would not comment on what was discussed at the hearing, except to say: "This is not a forum for discovery. The officer's attorney tried to turn it into court."
The officers were arrested early Friday after their supervisors sent them to investigate a suspected drug dealer working out of a car in the 4600 block of Reisterstown Road.
Court documents say the two officers searched the man and his car, finding $400 in his pocket and $480 in a paper bag under the front seat.
The court documents say Officer Lincoln combined the money, counted it and stuffed $520 back in the bag. Finding no drugs, they released the man.
Both officers were ordered back to the Northwestern District station, where they were arrested. Court documents say $360 was recovered from Officer Lincoln's right sock.
Officer Lincoln reportedly said the money was his, according to court documents. "He then directed a comment to McNamara stating, 'We counted that money in front of him, right?' McNamara then stated, 'I don't know what this is about.' "
In an interview Monday, Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said that every citizen has a right to expect "honest law enforcement."
"It is not uncommon for us to receive a complaint of missing money," he said. "The fact that the person who complains may be a drug dealer certainly doesn't justify an officer who is a thief."