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Trial board: Baltimore police officer improperly shared information about a former top deputy that ended up on Twitter

A 20-year-veteran of the Baltimore Police Department improperly shared information about an expunged arrest of a former command staff member and obstructed an internal investigation, a department trial board has found.

Lt. Michael Pool was judged guilty of sharing an old mugshot and other information from an expunged domestic violence case of Andre Bonaparte, who came out of retirement to serve as deputy commissioner in 2018 under then-acting commissioner Darryl De Sousa. Bonaparte left the department in March 2019 as part of a restructuring under Commissioner Michael Harrison, who started that February.

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The trial board, which includes three officers and two civilians, reached its conclusion late Tuesday after Pool testified on his own behalf. The hearing was held over two days this month at the department’s internal affairs building on Kirk Avenue in North Baltimore.

The trial board prosecutor asked that Pool be terminated, but the trial board is recommending a demotion back to the rank of sergeant, as well as several weeks suspension and several days loss of leave. Harrison, as police commissioner, will have the final say on what discipline to impose.

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Pool’s police powers were suspended in 2019 and he has been working in the department’s communications office. He was previously an administrative lieutenant in the criminal investigations division.

The leak of information about Bonaparte spilled into the public eye after it was posted on Twitter, sparking an outrage and costing him his spot as deputy commissioner, Bonparte said in a lawsuit. The underlying domestic violence charge was never prosecuted and was expunged, and his attorney said the entire incident never took place.

Bonaparte filed a federal lawsuit against the city and officers involved in the leak last year, but he has since dismissed his claims, apparently without reaching a settlement with the city.

Although other officers were involved and have been disciplined, only Pool is facing possible removal from the department. He was investigated previously and found to have broken policy relating to a promotional exam.

Ashley Moore, the trial board prosecutor said Pool “didn’t behave the same way” as the other officers connected to the leak.

“He hasn’t been forthcoming” like the others, she said, and called the charges against him “a very serious ethical violation.”

Pool testified at his trial board hearing Tuesday that he received a picture of Bonaparte from another officer, Lt. Eric Leitch, in Jan. 2019, and two days later he shared it with other members of the department to determine if the photo was legitimate.

Pool said he later saw the photo posted to Twitter by local activist Kinji Scott, along with what appeared to be arrest information. Pool said he searched an internal Baltimore Police database called arrest viewer to determine whether the photo was actually a booking photo. He said he accidentally logged into the system under another officer’s name, after the computer remembered the other officer’s name and password, which was the same as his, “police.”

Pool said he filed a form to notify officials that he wrongly searched for the case under the other officer’s name.

Pool was not charged with making a false statement and he was not accused of leaking the information to Scott.

Moore said in closing arguments that Pool failed to report the misconduct by Leitch, then disseminated the picture to others when it should have remained confidential.

Additionally, when internal affairs investigators began investigating how the photo and arrest information were made public, Pool was accused of obstructing the investigation. Internal Affairs investigator Det. Anthony Faulk said he searched Pool’s office at police headquarters in early February 2019 to get Pool’s departmental-issued iPhone and other items. Investigators took Pool’s office computer but were unable to locate the phone.

Pool told investigators he left the phone in his office. He told them his office was open and near where recent academy graduates and their families had attended at graduation ceremony at headquarters, and that, afterward, he received security alerts that someone was attempting to use the phone in New York while he was in police training in Baltimore.

When internal affairs investigators attempted to search Pool’s computer, the username and password he provided to them didn’t work.

Pool’s attorney Mike Davey questioned why the investigators didn’t follow-up with Pool about the phone and passwords. He also questioned why investigators did not look into potentially exculpatory evidence that his phone has been in New York, based on the alerts to his account.

Davey argued that his client only received a photo of Bonaparte, without any other information, like the photo that was posted to Twitter with Bonaparte’s date of birth and other case information.

“The department had multiple opportunities to do a fair and thorough investigation,” Davey said.

He noted several issues in the investigation, including errors in reports, and claimed the investigator made false statements during the hearing against Pool.

“He tried to put more evidence against my client,” said Davey, noting that Faulk’s testimony about his conversation with an officer who received the picture differed from the transcript of that conversation.

Davey accused the investigator of making “intentionally false statements” and of including incorrect information throughout the investigation. He called it a “one-sided investigation, ignoring all the other outside facts.”

Bonaparte, in his lawsuit, alleged that Pool and others leaked information about him as retaliation after he initiated disciplinary action against an unnamed subordinate.

“What concerns me, if they do this to a supervisor, imagine what they’re doing to the citizens of Baltimore City,” Ivan Bates, Bonaparte’s attorney at the time, said previously.

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

Bates said Wednesday that Harrison should follow the prosecutor’s recommendation to terminate Pool, noting the previous sustained charge against him connected to the promotional exam.

“To me, the police commissioner has to hold him accountable” Bates said. “If he doesn’t do that, then to me, the message is business as usual.”

Davey noted that the other officers charged in the incident did not lose their jobs.

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Lt. Col. Martin Bartness, who works in the patrol division, accepted discipline for failure to report misconduct, and has been promoted twice since. Lt. Robert Quick Jr., another officer who since left the department, lost just two days of leave related to his role in sharing the information, Davey said.

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Leitch, the officer who first sent the photo to Pool, got a letter of reprimand and a four day suspension, Davey said.

Pool earned a base salary of $116,000, and with overtime, $141,000 in the past fiscal year, according to city salary records.

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