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Vice squad commanders in Md. working for casino

Monday - 11/14/2011, 11:44am  ET

The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The captain and lieutenant who oversee the Anne Arundel County Police Department's gambling investigations have side jobs as security guards for the developer building the casino at Arundel Mills, according to documents obtained by The Capital.

Capt. Randy Jones and Lt. Robert Adams _ the officers in charge of the department's vice unit _ are among 18 county police officers on the payroll of The Cordish Cos., which will operate the state's largest slots casino.

The after-hours security work for Cordish _ which the department first authorized in May _shocked the former chairman of the county's Ethics Commission and several law enforcement experts.

"Having people who regulate gambling working for a casino operator is just mind-boggling," said Christopher S. Rizek, who headed the Ethics Commission from 2004 to 2008.

"Anybody working vice, narcotics or organized crime should under no circumstances work (secondary employment). It compromises the officer and it compromises the agency," said Andrew J. Scott III, a former chief of the Boca Raton (Fla.) Police Department who now consults privately on police policies. "It just doesn't look good."

In an interview Friday, County Police Chief James Teare Sr. said he sees no problem with the security work. He noted that the casino is under construction and that the job at hand is protecting a parking lot.

"None of the secondary employment at the Arundel Mills construction site is a conflict of interest," Teare said. "We have no regulatory authority over the construction site (as police officers)."

Several members of the County Council said last week they agree with Teare _ or at least weren't interested in arguing the point.

"I trust our police officers at all levels," said Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, echoing similar comments voiced by Councilman Derek Fink, R-Pasadena.

Councilmen Jamie Benoit, D-Crownsville, and Daryl Jones, D-Severn, said they would leave any ethical questions to the Ethics Commission.

Betsy Dawson, the executive director of the commission, declined to comment on the revelations.

Attempts to reach other officers on the command staff were unsuccessful.

The apparently cozy relationship between Cordish and the county's vice unit was revealed last week at the conclusion of a two-month investigation by The Capital into how often the department's command staff works side jobs.

According to documents obtained by the newspaper, Teare, one major and three captains are authorized to work security for such companies as Cordish, AT&T and Baltimore Gas and Electric.

Union officials and some councilmen criticized the department's top brass for working side jobs as security guards, particularly since the practice is almost unheard of in other jurisdictions.

"It's unfortunate that the commanders are taking these jobs when police officers really need them to make ends meet," said Cpl. O'Brien Atkinson, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police. He noted his membership is facing the second consecutive year of, on average, 5 percent pay cuts.

"When I think of secondary work, I think of rank-and-file officers. Not commanders," Jones said. "I'd think we would want our top-tiered officers focusing on the (operation of) the department."

Teare defended the department's policy. He said there is no law or regulation on the books barring commanders from working side jobs.

"Secondary employment by all police officers is a lawful and regulated activity," he said, noting that supervisors must sign off on all second jobs.

Through a spokesman, County Executive John R. Leopold also voiced his support for Teare and the command staff.

"The county executive has been very clear that he supports secondary employment by police officers. This applies to the entire department regardless of rank," spokesman David Abrams said. "There are guidelines in place to review requests for secondary employment, and those guidelines are followed. ... We have seen no evidence of any conflicts."

Abrams went on to chastise Atkinson for speaking out against his bosses.

"It is unfortunate that the union president is attacking the people who have supported officers in their efforts to work secondary employment," he said.

How many hours the commanders work for the businesses and how much they are paid is unclear.

According to Teare, the department does not track such information.

Even if the county knew how much the commanders made, it would not release those figures. Over the past two months, The Capital repeatedly requested information about the secondary work by command staff and filed a request under the state's Public Information Act.

In response, the county eventually released several documents with the names redacted, citing the Maryland Law Enforcement Bill of Rights and the confidentiality of personnel records. On the same grounds, the county refused to release the officers' requests for secondary employment.

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