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Darcy Costello

The Baltimore Sun

May 21st, 2024

A national group representing Black law enforcement officers is calling for the Maryland State Police to conduct an “immediate review” of allegations made by a trooper that a white sergeant assaulted him while they were in Pennsylvania for a law enforcement training session.

Maryland State Police confirmed the agency is conducting an administrative investigation into an alleged “incident” April 27 involving its members. A spokeswoman said the investigation was initiated “immediately” after a complaint was received April 29.

“While we cannot discuss the specifics of an ongoing investigation, our Department is committed to transparency and accountability,” police spokeswoman Elena Russo said in an email. “Pending the outcome of the investigation, the appropriate action will be taken to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”

In a press release, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers expressed “support and solidarity” with the trooper who was allegedly assaulted, calling for the accused sergeant to be investigated for assault, rude and discourteous conduct, conduct unbecoming and bullying by intimidation.

The group said that the trooper made a complaint to ranking officers shortly after the incident and that the association was concerned about the potential for an ongoing pattern of “supervisory approval of abuse, intimidation and denigration of Black officers.”

To that end, it called for a review of conduct by a major and a detective-sergeant for failure to accept a complaint against an officer, neglect of duty, failure to supervise and intimidation.

“The response of agency administrators, command staff and supervisory personnel to these issues will define their leadership, or lack thereof,” the statement from the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers said.The association’s press release named three state police employees. Each of them are on full-duty status and assigned to the agency’s Criminal Enforcement Division, according to the Maryland State Police. The department did not confirm which employees were part of its administrative investigation.

The law enforcement training exercise took place at Fort Indiantown Gap, a National Guard training center in Annville, Pennsylvania. Maryland State Police did not specify what training its employees received.

The military police at Fort Indiantown Gap forwarded a media inquiry to a spokesman for the Pennsylvania National Guard. That spokesman, Major Travis Mueller, said the Fort Indiantown Gap Police responded to a “request for assistance” from Maryland State Police for help in acquiring security camera footage from a restaurant along with interviews from restaurant staff. But, Mueller said, no footage existed and the staff didn’t see anything.

Mueller said the Fort Indiantown Gap agency was not conducting its own criminal investigation.

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers also called for an update of Maryland State Police policies around the investigation of misconduct complaints and increased hiring, promotion and retention of troopers of color. It specifically suggested policies around misconduct complaints be reviewed and revised to ensure “stronger accountability, fairness and transparency in the investigation of these issues.”

“For this officer to tell me that he’s been assaulted, number one, and then to top it off, he went to several ranking officers and nobody wanted to listen to his complaint? No. That’s not happening,” said Charles Wilson, who chairs the National Assocation of Black Law Enforcement Officers and is retired from law enforcement agencies in Ohio and Rhode Island. “We want a good investigation, period. … What we want to see is some accountability.”

Sgt. Anthony Alexander, the president of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers, said his organization became part of the larger national group in late 2023 for greater coordination and influence.

“This is not good,” Alexander said. “The culture’s not good.”

Alexander said the trooper who said he had been assaulted received a “gag” order from Maryland State Police. He described it as an unusual move by the agency to restrict someone speaking about a case this early.

The Maryland State Police is under a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into alleged racial discrimination in its hiring and employment practices. Erek L. Barron, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, said in 2022 that the probe would examine how the state agency hires, promotes, trains, disciplines and makes opportunities available to employees.

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