Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere, a veteran cop who has helped lead plainclothes and other operational units in the department for years, is retiring, he told The Baltimore Sun on Monday.
The announcement comes the same day as testimony in the ongoing Gun Trace Task Force trial alleging Palmere coached one of the unit’s officers on what to say to avoid punishment after a 2009 shooting, though Palmere denied the allegation and said his retirement is unrelated.
Palmere said he informed Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa of his intention to retire two weeks ago, following the firing of former Commissioner Kevin Davis by Mayor Catherine Pugh.
He denied the allegation that he coached Det. Jemell Rayam in the March 2009 shooting of 30-year-old Sean Cannady.
“It’s not true. I would not coach somebody,” Palmere said. “I’ve always taken pride in my ethics and integrity.”
At the time of the shooting, Rayam and his partner, Jason Giordano, said they went to investigate Cannady sitting in a vehicle in an alley. Rayam said at the time that he shot Cannady in the head as his vehicle pulled off, “in an attempt to stop what he thought to be an attempt to hit the officers,” police said.
It was the third shooting by Rayam in a 20-month span. Cannady’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2011, and in 2013 they received a $100,000 settlement from the city.
The allegation that Palmere had coached Rayam was made on Monday by Detective Momodu Gondo in the federal trial of Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor.
Rayam, Gondo, Hersl and Taylor are all among the eight Gun Trace Task Force officers indicted on federal racketeering charges last year. Rayam and Gondo have already pleaded guilty, as have four other officers.
Gondo testified that he had heard from others that Palmere had coached Rayam, not that he had firsthand knowledge of the situation.
Palmere said he had no idea why Gondo would provide such testimony. He declined to answer additional questions about the Gun Trace Task Force and his role overseeing plainclothes outfits for years.
Palmere said he did not yet know when his retirement would become effective, but that it will come soon. He said he is meeting with the pension board soon.
Palmere has been with the Baltimore Police Department his entire career, and has been the rare top-ranking official in the department to survive multiple police administrations.
He is among several officers not facing charges who have been named as being involved in wrongdoing by members of the GTTF unit who have pleaded guilty and are testifying at the trial. Others include Giordano, Rayam’s former partner, who is still working in the department.
Gondo testified that Giordano took money with Rayam and another former officer. Giordano was investigated in 2009 for an $11,000 theft case that Rayam admitted to on the stand last week. Giordano, who works in citywide robbery, was punished in that case for misconduct andsuspended without pay for 30 days.
The convicted officers’ testimony implicating other, uncharged officers suggests a wider network of officers were complicit in wrongdoing.
Douglas Colbert, professor of law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, talks about the testimony of Detective Momodu Gondo, testified that he stole money with slain Det. Sean Suiter.
T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the department is “monitoring the testimony,” and that De Sousa has created a special “Corruption Investigation Unit” to focus on the actions of the Gun Trace Task Force and anyone tied to it.
“The allegations and actions [are] disturbing, unacceptable, and criminal,” said T.J. Smith, the department’s spokesman, in a statement. “We are working diligently to investigate and hold those who tarnished the badge and violated public trust accountable for their actions. The citizens deserve better and the hardworking honorable men and women of this agency deserve better.”
“These are the same investigators who have worked side by side with the FBI from the onset of this investigation that resulted in the arrest of several active officers last March,” Smith said. “We will continue to work with the FBI in reference to the claims made by the various defendants’ testimony.”
Palmere is not the first top level departure from the department following Davis’ firing by Pugh.
Two other top officials in the department, Deputy Commissioner Jason Johnson, head of the Strategic Services Bureau, and Chief Ganesha Martin, head of the Department of Justice Compliance, Accountability and External Affairs Division, resigned after Davis was fired.
They had been leading the department’s reform efforts amid a federal consent decree with the Justice Department.