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Baltimore Police commander overseeing internal affairs, other 'professional responsibility' units to retire

Baltimore Police commander overseeing internal affairs, other 'professional responsibility' units to retire
Baltimore Police Internal Affairs Division Chief Rodney Hill is retiring, the department said. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore Police commander who oversees internal affairs and other investigations within the department is retiring, the agency announced Friday.

The move is the latest change among many at the top levels of the department since Commissioner Darryl De Sousa took over in January.

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Chief Rodney Hill, who has been in charge of internal investigations since 2013, was responsible for reviewing and overseeing internal investigations into police misconduct at a time of intense scrutiny of the department. That included the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody in 2015, the subsequent Justice Department investigation and report on widespread unconstitutional practices within the department in 2016, and last year’s federal indictments of the agency’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.

Hill, 55, declined to comment Friday.

Some in the city have questioned the effectiveness of the office under Hill because internal affairs did not uncover the widespread corruption outlined by the Justice Department or by federal prosecutors in the Gun Trace Task Force case. Hill was part of a police task force investigating Gray’s death when Baltimore prosecutors charged six officers involved in Gray’s arrest.

None of the officers were convicted, and the department outsourced its internal investigations into Gray’s death to investigators in Montgomery and Howard counties.

The Police Department said Hill’s departure does not have to do with his performance, or with his involvement in an incident under investigation in which a letter from Hill to De Sousa had incorrect information about the internal affairs record of a deputy commissioner appointee. The letter led De Sousa to halt the appointment of former police officer Thomas Cassella pending a deeper investigation, and Cassella ended up not taking the job despite being cleared of what was alleged against him in the memo.

Hill’s retirement was described as “voluntary,” and the department said he is “assisting in the transition” of his responsibilities to one of his subordinates through the end of the month, when his retirement will become effective.

“I thank Chief Hill for his years of service with the BPD,” De Sousa said. “I wish him well in his retirement and future endeavors.”

Maj. Stephanie Lansey, commander of the internal affairs unit that fell under Hill’s broader purview as chief of the “Office of Professional Responsibility,” will serve as the acting commander of the responsibility office “until a replacement for Chief Hill is named,” the department said.

The Police Department is in the midst of implementing a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that calls for more robust mechanisms to supervise officers and hold tem accountable for misconduct.

Hill’s departure adds to the shakeup within the department’s top ranks since Mayor Catherine Pugh fired former Commissioner Kevin Davis and appointed De Sousa in January.

Among the changes was the placement of Hill’s responsibility office under the strategic service bureau, which now is being led by Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who joined the department this month.

De Sousa also removed some of the responsibilities of Hill’s office and gave them to other new commanders, including oversight of the investigative team that reviews police shootings and other uses of force by officers.

That team, known as the Special Investigation Response Team, is being led by Maj. Ian Dombroski, who formerly led the internal affairs unit under Hill. The team is part of the broader Office of Constitutional and Impartial Policing, which is being led by Inspector General Edward Jackson, another De Sousa appointee.

Hill, a Baltimore native, joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2013, from the city law department.

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He is a former Baltimore County assistant state's attorney and a retired deputy district commander with the Montgomery County Department of Police, where he served for 20 years.

New Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa talks about changes in policing for the Baltimore Police Department. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun video)
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