Harford County Sheriff's Deputy Edward J. Keplin did not deny tapping a female deputy's buttocks with his nightstick, nor did he deny making sexually suggestive remarks to one of the few female law enforcement officers on the force, court papers say.
But Keplin, 45, does contend in documents filed this month in Harford Circuit Court that being suspended from the force and demoted was too harsh. A 23-year veteran, Keplin was demoted to one rank above rookie.
His boss, Sheriff R. Thomas Golding, says Keplin is lucky he has a job.
After a career capped with overseeing five deputies in the department's northern precinct, Keplin will be working the overnight shift and doing paperwork in the processing office of the Harford County Detention Center.
And while he prepares to start his new assignment Wednesday, Keplin is asking a judge to overrule the sheriff and overturn the punishment.
Keplin claims in Jan. 5 court filings that the 30-day suspension crippled him financially. He has had to rely on family to avoid foreclosure on his home, his attorney, J. Paul Krawczyk Jr., told a judge this month, The Aegis reported. Krawczyk did not return repeated phone calls last week.
The sheriff's office spokesman said he does not recall the last time a deputy received such a suspension.
Keplin, a deputy first class whose new yearly salary of $59,000 is $3,000 less than what he was making as a corporal, has lost about $5,000 in base pay during his suspension.
In handing down the punishment, Golding wrote in a memorandum that this is the third time Keplin has been reprimanded or counseled for inappropriate comments. "[H]ad Corporal Keplin truly learned from past behavior, we would not be where we are today," Golding wrote.
"The nature of these findings," Golding added, "coupled with the fact that Corporal Keplin serves in the capacity of a first line supervisor would warrant serious consideration for termination." But Keplin has a history of "commendable acts" and acknowledges his latest infractions, which Golding called "grossly inappropriate."
A trial board found that Keplin tapped the buttocks of a female deputy first class, whom Keplin supervised, while they were searching a home last January. The woman, 28, was "offended, embarrassed and humiliated," the trial board wrote.
The board also found that Keplin made sexual comments to the woman in front of a colleague and told her on separate occasions, "You do not want to [mess] with me," and, "You do not want to go above my head."
Last February, after a police official ordered Keplin to have no further contact with the woman, Keplin sent her a letter written by his attorney "threatening various legal actions," Golding wrote.
After the trial board found that Keplin violated police conduct codes, Keplin told the sheriff that "he would improve and that 'this would make him a better supervisor,'" Golding wrote. "Unfortunately, I am not persuaded by his arguments."
A court hearing on Keplin's appeal has not been set. He would be able to compete for a promotion in two years.
An article Sunday about a court case involving the Harford County sheriff's office erroneously stated that Deputy Edward J. Keplin was accused of hitting a female deputy with his nightstick. Keplin was accused of hitting her with a stick, not with his nightstick, according to court documents. Also, the article cited a letter written by Keplin's attorney to the female deputy. The article should have clarified that the letter was written by a separate attorney of Keplin's, not the attorney named in the article, J. Paul Krawczyk Jr.