Baltimore police say seven officers facing internal investigations tied to gun task force corruption case

A high-ranking Baltimore Police Department internal affairs commander told City Council members Wednesday that seven officers are under internal investigations connected to the department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.

Two other officers were investigated and cleared, Lt. Col. LaTonya Lewis said.

Lewis’ disclosure came at a monthly police oversight briefing where Councilman Brandon Scott peppered police commanders with questions about internal affairs cases, which are not usually aired in public while investigations are underway.

Scott, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, asked about several other cases:

  • A probe into financial misconduct tied to recruitment in Puerto Rico, where the Police Department has sought to hire Spanish-speaking officers. The director of internal affairs, David Cali, confirmed the investigation had recently begun, but did not share details.
  • A lieutenant who was disciplined after being overheard on a wiretap tied to the gun unit investigation sharing answers to a sergeant’s exam. Lewis said she was familiar with the case but could not share details.
  • Whether supervisors were under investigation for allowing an officer to go on patrol drunk. Officer Aaron Heilman was fired after being found intoxicated and slumped over in his patrol vehicle last week near Pigtown. Deputy Commissioner Andre Bonaparte confirmed that an investigation was ongoing.

The glimpse into the internal affairs cases and new data released at the hearing showing that 20 officers were facing criminal charges as of last week come on top of a steady stream of incidents involving police officers this year.

Members of the gun task force were indicted and prosecuted by federal authorities for robbery and overtime fraud. During the trial of some of those officers, allegations were raised against additional officers who had not been charged. It had not previously been clear what action the department was taking to follow up on that information.

Lewis shared few details about the internal cases related to the gun task force case except to say one of the nine officers no longer works for the department. The investigations began in April. It wasn’t clear how the allegations were referred to internal affairs.

The council instituted the hearings to get monthly updates on crime and budget issues at the police department. The latest figures presented by police officials showed overtime in the last two weeks of September topped $2 million and that the department is projected to spend more than double its $20 million overtime budget this year, despite efforts to drive down the spending.

The city is expected in coming days to release parts of an overtime audit that could shed more light on where the money goes.

The police department released new data at the hearing on officers who are suspended and who have been terminated this year.

Twenty officers were suspended as of Oct. 4 because they face criminal charges. An additional 37 were under internal investigation and 12 were awaiting a hearing before an internal board that could recommend firing them. Three more were completing a suspension imposed as a form of discipline.

Eleven officers have been terminated this year and an additional eight have decided to resign instead of being terminated.

Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer questioned police commanders about whether it was too difficult to discipline officers, a common complaint among activists.

Schleifer recounted the story of an officer who lied about an incident to his superiors only for his body camera to contradict him. Schleifer said he believed the officer had been terminated only to then see him still on the street.

In the private sector, Schleifer said, that conduct would lead to an employee being fired.

“I don't know why it's any different in the department,” the councilman said.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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