Deputy Police Commissioner Barry W. Powell denied yesterday that he helped a colleague carry out an ill-fated, and possibly improper, sting to catch a lieutenant in a lie about driving a police vehicle home to Westminster.
The Baltimore Police Department's second-highest-ranking officer called accusations about his alleged involvement in the unsanctioned probe "absolutely incorrect."
But police officials said yesterday that Powell and Col. James L. Hawkins Jr. remain the subjects of an internal investigation that is examining their role in the probe and whether their conduct was proper.
Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris yesterday called the situation "very distracting."
"It's going to end very shortly," Norris said. "We can't go on like this."
Hawkins has defended his actions, saying that Lt. Regis L. Phelan repeatedly drove an unmarked police car to his Carroll County home. Believing it to be an improper use of police property, Hawkins drove to Phelan's home several times on scouting missions and in December used a master key to take the car.
The colonel said he wanted to see whether Phelan would lie about the car once he discovered it missing. But Phelan, who had permission from his boss to take the car, reported it stolen to Maryland State Police.
Hawkins then left the car on a North Baltimore street and placed a fake 911 call, disguising his voice, to report an abandoned vehicle.
Norris has criticized Hawkins' sting as a "colossal waste of time," especially for a top department commander responsible for the agency's detective squads, including the homicide unit.
Norris told The Sun on Friday that the probe of Hawkins, begun in January, had expanded to include Powell. Sources said Powell had accompanied Hawkins on one trip to scout out Phelan's home in Carroll County.
In a voice-mail message to a reporter, Powell said the sources "lied to you. I don't even know where Phelan lives. ... I did not desire to catch a colleague in a lie about a take-home car. ... I didn't go out there scouting Phelan's home, and I didn't design a trap."
In a later interview, Powell said he had advance knowledge of Hawkins' probe, but he declined to comment on whether he considered it appropriate.