2021 | Courts

Prosecutor’s list has 43 police officers whose credibility might be questioned

When state law changed, more records related to police became public

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This story was updated at 1 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2021, to add the fact that the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office was in the process of compiling its list before other jurisdictions released theirs.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office has a list of 43 officers, from six law enforcement agencies, whose credibility could be questioned by defense counsel in a trial.

The list was released on Tuesday through a Maryland Public Information Act request to media outlets that requested it.

Twenty-one officers on the list are active and 22 resigned or retired within the last five years.

They represent a small fraction of the hundreds of officers working at police agencies across the county. The Montgomery County Police Department alone has about 1,300 sworn officers.

The State’s Attorney’s Office has identified the officers as “individuals for whom there may be impeachment material concerning truth, veracity or bias which would need to be disclosed to the defense,” according to a statement from the office.

The State’s Attorney’s Office has an obligation to disclose to the defense any “impeachable material,” meaning the possibility an officer’s testimony could be called into question, according to the statement.

Prosecutors In Maryland have been releasing similar lists because of a state law that went into effect on Oct. 1, making more police records public.

Anton’s Law, as it is known, is named in honor of a man who died in police custody. Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery Village) sponsored the House version of the bill.

The 43 officers on the Montgomery County list include:

  • 31 current or former Montgomery County police officers
  • Six former Rockville police officers
  • Two active Metro Transit police officers
  • Two former or current Takoma Park police officers
  • One active Maryland state trooper
  • One active deputy in the county sheriff’s department

The decision by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office to release its list of officers comes a couple of weeks after state’s attorneys in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City released their respective lists, The Washington Post reported on Oct. 29. The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office told Bethesda Beat on Oct. 27 that it was compiling its list and would share it with media outlets by Nov. 15.

Baltimore’s list includes 91 officers and Prince George’s County’s list includes 57 officers. Next to each officer’s name, a notation states that either criminal charges have been brought against them, or that they are under investigation by the department’s internal affairs division.

Some of the officers on those two lists have pending charges. Others have had their cases decided.

Montgomery County’s list has no additional information next to each officer’s name about why they are on the list.

The Baltimore City and Prince George’s County lists are called “do not call” — referring to not using those officers as witnesses — but Montgomery County is not using that label.

Lee Holland, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the county’s police union, told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that he knew Montgomery County’s list was being released to the media.

He said he worries that making the list public could damage the career of officers on it.

Holland said many of the officers on the list are there because of internal affairs investigations. In some cases, an officer on the list might not have had a hearing about the complaint.

“[They] never had a chance to get this off their record,” he said. “[The officers] haven’t had due process to say [whether] that is a valid claim.”

The release of Montgomery County’s list, Holland said, is simply to comply with Brady disclosure laws that force county prosecutors to provide relevant information to the defense in a trial.

He estimated that 90% of the time, the State’s Attorney’s Office has supported the testimony of officers on the list. In some cases, the office has told an officer on the list in writing that they will support his or her testimony, Holland said.

Holland said there must be a remedy for officers who clear their name after ending up on the list.

“There needs to be a process of, how does somebody come off that list?” he said.

The State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment beyond its original statement.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com