Baltimore police violated officer's rights, judges rule

(BALTIMORE) -- Baltimore police internal affairs investigators violated the protections owed a city police officer by pressing him to resign without reading him his rights before they interrogated him about possible criminal charges, the state's second-highest court ruled yesterday.

The decision is a victory for George Hendricks, 31, then a city police officer for 2 1/2 years who said he was forced to resign when arrested by city officers in 1996 on child pornography charges outside his Howard County home. He was acquitted in 1997 of those charges, and in 1998 was one of two officers to lodge the civil complaint about what they claimed were aggressive tactics in separate incidents that violated their rights.

In the ruling, which overturns a city judge's decision favoring the Police Department's handling of Hendricks' case, a three-judge Court of Special Appeals panel said he was "denied almost all of the protections that should have been afforded to him" under the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Those protections include allowing a police officer 10 days to get a lawyer before discussing a matter that could jeopardize his job and advising him of his rights under this bill of rights.

But Hendricks was not advised of those rights, and he later wrote a letter telling the department that his resignation was involuntary. Yesterday, his lawyer said that when the case is returned to Baltimore Circuit Court, he expects to ask that Hendricks be reinstated with back pay.

The judges said they would not make any broad policy statements, and were confining the ruling to the specifics of this case. The ruling is unpublished, so it cannot be used to establish legal precedent.

The case initially included a second former city officer, Detective Thomas Fore, but he later left the department and was no longer part of the appeal.

(iSyndicate; The Baltimore Sun; Nov. 18, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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