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Former top deputy in Baltimore Police Department sues over firing, leaked document

Former Deputy Commissioner Andre Bonaparte, pictured in 2018, alleges that he was chased out of the Baltimore Police Department following a “bogus internal complaint” that was initiated against him after he moved to take disciplinary action against an unnamed subordinate.
Former Deputy Commissioner Andre Bonaparte, pictured in 2018, alleges that he was chased out of the Baltimore Police Department following a “bogus internal complaint” that was initiated against him after he moved to take disciplinary action against an unnamed subordinate. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

A former top deputy at the Baltimore Police Department has sued the city over his firing last year, accusing people within the department of, among other things, leaking on social media an expunged document related to him.

Andre Bonaparte, who came out of retirement to serve as deputy commissioner for 14 months between 2018 and 2019, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court last week. The defendants include Commissioner Michael Harrison.

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Bonaparte alleges that he was chased out following a “bogus internal complaint” that was initiated against him after he moved to take disciplinary action against an unnamed subordinate.

Bonaparte says the subordinate’s “allies,” who he identifies in the lawsuit as Maj. Martin Bartness and Lts. Michael Poole and Eric Leitch, leaked an expunged domestic violence case between him and his wife. Bonaparte says the document was posted on social media, and claims it occurred with the consent of Deputy Commissioner James Gillis.

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The lawsuit does not explain Bonaparte’s basis for believing those officers were involved, or how specifically the document was posted, but his attorney, Ivan Bates, says the BPD investigated the incident and determined who were involved.

Police spokeswoman Lindsey Eldridge said she could not comment on an ongoing legal matter and personnel issues. Police misconduct investigation files are also prohibited from release under state law.

“What concerns me, if they do this to a supervisor, imagine what they’re doing to the citizens of Baltimore City,” Bates said.

Bates added that the domestic violence claim was “baseless” and dropped at the time it occurred.

Bonaparte was an officer from 1987 until 2008, retiring as a deputy major. He was brought back in early 2018 to oversee operations for then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa.

Harrison announced in March 2019 that Bonaparte was “leaving” the department.

Bonaparte says Harrison disciplined and terminated him without due process; even though as deputy commissioner he served at the pleasure of the commissioner, his lawsuit claims that the open disciplinary case resulted in him being denied a letter of good standing, which prevented him from obtaining a handgun permit.

He said leaders “conspired to tarnish his employability," and treated him differently because of his race, saying white commanders were able to leave in good standing.

Bonaparte alleges a violation of his federal constitutional rights, defamation, invasion of privacy, interference with economic relationship, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other counts. It seeks more than $525,000.

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