The police chief at Morgan State University personally intervened this month to reverse and expunge the arrest of a scholarship student accused of theft and resisting arrest in a dispute that began over an unpaid $6.50 tab at a campus dining hall, according to documents obtained by The Sun and court papers filed yesterday.
After personally persuading prosecutors at Central Booking to drop charges filed by his own officers, Chief Adrian J. Wiggins pushed for official police statements to be rewritten as if no arrest occurred, according to internal police records and statements obtained by The Sun.
Two campus officers have been disciplined for failing to obey the chief's "unarrest" requests, and they filed a lawsuit yesterday in Circuit Court to have their punishments reviewed, Michael Marshall, their attorney, said.
In a statement, Morgan officials said the campus police department is "doing an administrative investigation of the incident," and that there was "no basis for the arrest." The force consists of about 25 sworn officers who patrol the Northeast Baltimore campus, which has experienced several incidents of violent crime this school year.
Wiggins did not return a phone call to his home yesterday, but Morgan spokesman Clinton Coleman defended the police department's attempt to "expunge" the student's arrest record.
"Records are expunged all the time," Coleman said. "This student did not deserve to have an arrest appear on her record. And now she doesn't."
On March 1, Officer Anthony Brown was called to a campus dining hall because a student, Ndeye M. Hane, had refused to pay for her $6.50 dinner after her electronic meal card showed a zero dollar balance, according to police reports.
Hane became "loud and rowdy" when her meal card was denied, said Marcina Purnell, the dining hall manager who called police that Saturday evening. Purnell said Hane took her meal and sat down to eat without paying.
Hane could not be reached for comment.
When he arrived about 5:20 p.m., Brown ordered Hane to either pay or leave the dining hall, but the student refused, according to Purnell and police charging documents.
He tried to take "hold of the student's arm in order to lead [her] out of the facility," but Hane "leapt up from sitting with a clenched and raised fist," according to a brief Brown filed yesterday in circuit court.
The officer called for backup, and, with the help of two other campus policemen, forced Hane to the ground and handcuffed her, while a crowd of "agitated" students "began to circle around us," according to a written statement Brown prepared immediately after the incident.
Brown then took Hane back to the campus police station, to issue her a citation before taking her to Central Booking for processing, he said in his statement.
Within 10 minutes of the incident, Wiggins called the police department and asked the corporal in charge to tell Brown to "unarrest" Hanes, according to written statements Brown and another officer, Thaddeus Davis, prepared at the time.
In court papers filed yesterday, Brown alleges that the chief knew about the arrest after receiving "a call from people in higher places" and that he told the officers they needed to avoid locking up Hane in Central Booking.
But Cpl. Edward Solomon, the officer in charge that night, told the chief that he agreed with Brown's decision to take the student to Central Booking for processing, according to a brief Solomon filed yesterday in Circuit Court.
Wiggins immediately relieved Solomon from duty and put Davis in charge, according to a separate statement by Davis obtained by The Sun.
"He said this was a political nightmare and that Ms. Hane, who is not a citizen, was here on a fifty thousand dollar scholarship and would possibly [be] deported," Davis wrote.
Wiggins told other officers his job was in jeopardy if the arrest was not reversed, according to Davis' statement.
In an interview, Brown said he was worried that "unarresting" a student whom he had forcibly detained could open him up to civil charges in the future.
Unable to reverse the arrest by phone, Wiggins went to Central Booking that night and persuaded Assistant State's Attorney Douglas Vey to drop all five charges against Hane, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.
"The chief told [Vey] that they had further investigated the case and the defendant did have money to pay for her food," Burns said. "It was a computer error."
About 2 a.m., after Hane was released, Wiggins called the campus police station and told the dispatcher on duty "to remove paperwork from arrest. ... Place arrest paperwork in an envelope, seal envelope, and place under Unit I's office door," according to a handwritten dispatcher's report obtained by The Sun.
"Unit I" is departmental code for the chief. On a "Daily Incident Report" from March 1, a typewritten notation of Hane's arrest is scribbled out with a pen, and the phrase "No Reports!" is scrawled underneath.
Brown said in an interview that he looked for his initial report the next morning but found instead an altered version, without his signature, which omitted all reference to the arrest.
Two other versions of the report obtained by The Sun contain truncated versions of Brown's narrative, with no mention of the arrest.
According to court papers, both Solomon and Brown were punished for their refusal to obey the chief's unarrest orders, which they considered inappropriate.
For refusing Wiggins' order to sign his name to the altered police report, Brown has been permanently assigned to desk duty on the midnight shift, he said.
Solomon, Brown's supervisor, was assigned to desk duty for three days, he says in his separate lawsuit against the police department.
Purnell, the dining hall manager who called the police, said she was fired shortly after the incident.
"My supervisor is saying that I made a bad manager's decision since [Hane] didn't threaten us," Purnell said. "But they way she was acting, it was a threat to me, and it could have been a threat to anybody. ... She was really rowdy, drawing a crowd."
Officials at Thompson Food Services, Morgan's dining hall vendor, declined to comment yesterday.
Wiggins' intervention in Hane's arrest comes amid a spate of violent incidents on and around the public college campus.
Last month, a Laurel man was killed during a party at a student dormitory just off campus. Two months earlier, at least two Morgan freshmen were involved in the stabbing of three other freshmen outside a residence hall. And in September, Morgan student Richard Asare was fatally shot by an unknown person several blocks off campus.
Wiggins was hired to head up the campus police force in October 2005, according to state records.
He is not a sworn law enforcement officer in Maryland, according to the Police and Correctional Training Commissions, but under state law, chiefs of police agencies are not required to have state certification, said Ray Franklin, a commission spokesman.