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Batts stop-and-frisk document missing, police department says

Documentation of a "stop and frisk" by former police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, which the Baltimore Police Department withheld from public disclosure, is now missing, the agency says.

In September 2013, Batts pledged that his officers would responsibly use stop-and-frisk tactics, and as an example, described making such a stop himself.

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Experts said his justification for the stop was questionable, and The Baltimore Sun asked to review the citizen contact receipt for the incident; that form is used by police to document such stops.

The agency at the time did not release the document, citing an open criminal investigation and the privacy of the person who was frisked. The city, which is required by law to send all contact receipts to the state police, also withheld the document from the state.

Two years later, the agency says the document can't be located.

"Various custodians at BPD have performed a diligent search to locate the record responsive to your request," Assistant City Solicitor Brent Schubert wrote in response to a renewed Public Information Act request from The Sun. "At this time, the custodians have been unsuccessful in their efforts to locate same."

Asked for more details, a police spokesman said the department has launched an internal investigation into the documentation's disappearance.

Batts did not respond to a request for comment.

Describing the incident in 2013, Batts said he and his security team conducted what the department now calls an "investigative stop" in the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood. Batts said he approached a man whom a confidential informant had identified as an "enforcer" for the Black Guerrilla Family gang.

"I wanted him to know that I knew he was a hit man, and I went to talk to him [and] we patted him down for weapons," Batts told reporters. No weapon was found.

"Stop and frisk," the informal name for a pat-down outlined in a 1968 Supreme Court ruling, allows an officer to conduct a search without a warrant if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the person is armed and "presently dangerous."

Experts contacted by The Sun said that to meet the legal standard, Batts would need to observe suspicious behavior indicating the man had a weapon. Simply being told the man was known to carry a weapon would not be enough, they said. Many people are searched on the street after giving their consent, however.

In response to requests at the time, the Police Department said releasing the documentation would "constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; prejudice an investigation and endanger the life and physical safety of an individual."

State law requires police agencies to forward a copy of every stop-and-frisk report to the Maryland State Police. State police said that they received a letter from the Baltimore Police Department saying the document was being withheld because the "subject stopped is currently under active criminal investigation."

—Justin Fenton

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