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Crime

Board recommends termination for Anne Arundel officer who was accused of drunkenly fighting Howard police

During a public administrative hearing, three fellow law enforcement officers recommended the firing of an Anne Arundel County Police officer who was accused last year of drunkenly fighting and eluding Howard County police following a 2021 bar fight in Elkridge.

The board’s recommended punishment of termination for counts of not conforming to the law and conduct unbecoming of a police officer, as well as suspensions for other counts. Anne Arundel County Police Chief Amal Awad will make a final decision on whether Andrew Salenieks, who was a police corporal before being suspended in May, will remain a police department employee following the ruling Tuesday. No timeline for Awad’s decision was outlined.

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The trial board hearing was a rare glimpse at police personnel decision-making that occurs in a public view only when the accused officer challenges an internal affairs decision. The case was heard at the police headquarters in Millersville, but only viewable to the public through a video stream at another police station.

In May last year, Howard County police arrested Salenieks and charged him with second-degree assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct following an hourslong dispute near a bar in Elkridge, where police sparred with him after a report of an assault by an unruly customer at Triple Nines Bar and Billiards.

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Salenieks was “heavily intoxicated” throughout the conflict, said Kathy Rogers, an attorney prosecuting for the police department. He first argued with the responding officers, telling them to “call him sir, because he was a police officer,” she said, and told them there was “nothing they could do about it,” referring to his behavior.

He ran from the officers, screamed obscenities, belittled their ranks and threatened to sue them, she said, and at one point, he kicked an officer in the hand.

Once on the ground, he refused to put his hands behind his back and shouted that he was “Black” and that he was being beaten. Salenieks is white.

“Imagine how these officers felt,” Rogers said, noting that people could hear the incident from nearby residences. “This police officer was using what’s going on in society against them.”

She commended the Howard County officers “for their incredible restraint,” adding that they gave Salenieks “several chances” to give in during the hourslong incident. She said one of the Howard County police officers told internal affairs he “100% believed [Salenieks] should be terminated.”

In January, Salenieks was granted one year of probation of judgment on his criminal charges in Howard County District Court. He was briefly returned to duty but was suspended again on Feb. 10 following an interview with internal affairs.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing, he pleaded guilty to all five administrative charges against him, and did not dispute the allegations. He disputed the department’s proposed punishment of termination.

Salenieks and his lawyer, Michael Davey, argued that the southern district officer was driven to binge drinking under stress from the deaths of both of his parents, and from becoming a father, in the years leading up to the May 27, 2021 incident. He has since completed multiple substance abuse programs, witnesses testified, and had since stopped drinking and become a more receptive officer.

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He would “be an outstanding officer” if reinstated, said Michael McDermott, a former Anne Arundel police corporal who led internal programs for lawmen struggling with mental health challenges.

Salenieks said he “was a binge drinker” and did not remember much from that night.

He said his arrest “was needed,” describing it as a “wake-up call,” and adding that he has “learned to deal with anger and depression,” as well as alcohol abuse.

Davey presented the board with more than 60 letters from fellow officers backing Salenieks, and asked for him to only be demoted and temporarily suspended for the scuffle.

The three police officers hearing the proceedings, who did not identify themselves during the portion of the hearing viewable by the public, did not agree.

“There are some things that are unforgivable, and assaulting another officer is one thing that is unforgivable” said one of the officers. “Everything you did embarrassed the uniform.”

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