Baltimore police hire new training director after months of flux

Baltimore police named a new training director Friday, a move that follows two years of resignations, temporary appointments and a nearly fatal 2013 training accident that led the department to improve its safety guidelines.

Paul Banach, a 29-year law enforcement veteran, was named the new director of the Professional Development and Training Academy. Banach last worked at the Monroe Township Police Department in New Jersey before retiring in 2008 as a lieutenant.

Baltimore police say he worked in Monroe for much of his career. Upon retirement, Banach became a law enforcement training specialist with Pennsylvania State University's Justice and Safety Institute.

Police say he helped build the curriculum for the Pennsylvania Deputy Sheriff Training Academy.

Baltimore's police academy has struggled to keep a director on the job for the past two years, beginning with the hiring of veteran Montgomery County police Cmdr. John King, who resigned in June 2012 after less than six months on the job.

It has gone through three leaders since Feb. 12, 2013, when University of Maryland police trainee Raymond Gray was critically wounded from a gunshot to his head while training with Baltimore police at the abandoned Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.

Baltimore police training instructor William Scott Kern testified late last year that he accidentally grabbed a live weapon instead of a training gun and shot Gray.

Kern, a 19-year-veteran, was convicted in December of reckless endangerment and sentenced to 18 months in prison, with all but 60 days suspended. He was also fired.

The shooting resulted in the suspension of six academy officials and prompted Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts to briefly stop training.

The department acknowledged it did not have permission to use the facility, and it has since tightened its training policies and oversight. Live weapons are no longer allowed in training scenarios.

Maj. Eric Russell, who led the police academy at the time, was not aware of the training session. Batts immediately suspended him and replaced him with Maj. Joe Smith, who days later told commanders that he was retiring. The agency then moved 27-year veteran Lt. Col. Ross Buzzuro into the position.

But Buzzuro announced his retirement about a month later. He now serves as police chief for Ocean City. Baltimore police again began advertising for the training position in early April 2013.

Batts said last month that a candidate with a doctorate didn't get through the department's background check process, highlighting the struggle to find and retain a qualified candidate.

"There were things that popped up that were concerning to me," Batts said on "The Marc Steiner Show" on WEAA 88.9. "I had them redo it and start it all over again."

More than a year passed before Banach was hired.

"Director Banach brings a significant academic background to the Academy which we will use to raise our standards and foster innovative thinking in our officers," Batts said in a statement.

Banach, whom the department did not make available for an interview, has a bachelor's degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a master's degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is the married father of two daughters and a son, police said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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