Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.
Print Email

Feature

Cop Out

In Rousting Officer Jacqueline Folio, The Baltimore Police Department Has Raised Questions About its Own Internal Affairs

Jacqueline Folio
PLANTED: The corner of Pratt Street and Ellwood Avenue, with Folio (in red shirt) standing in front of the bush where internal affairs detectives placed drugs, just around the corner from Highlandtown Middle School (at right). Click to open a larger version.
MUG: Leon Burgess, as seen in a police video taken eight hours after his false arrest
THE RIGHT PROFILE: Folio's attorney Clarke Ahlers believes that his client is being persecuted by the Baltimore Police Department to cover up for the internal affairs division's bungled sting.
Photographs by Uli Loskot
GOT THE BLUES: Though Folio signed her retirement papers, at press time the department says it's preparing to bring her before a police trial board.

By Van Smith | Posted 4/6/2005

At 6:08 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, 2003, an anonymous tipster calls Baltimore City 911 and describes a black man wearing a blue baseball cap, a white shirt, and blue jeans, dealing drugs at the corner of Pratt Street and Ellwood Avenue in East Baltimore. The stash, the caller says, is in a brown paper bag in some bushes next to a corner house there. Three minutes later, 41-year-old Baltimore City Police patrol officer Jacqueline Folio is the first to respond to the scene, where Patterson Park butts up to Highlandtown Middle School.

A 14-year veteran with two stints as a police academy instructor under her belt, Folio makes fleeting eye contact with a young man who fits the description, as he walks away from the area with two friends. Folio radios in the suspect’s location and proceeds to recover a brown paper bag from under the bushes. It contains money and suspected cocaine in baggies. A block away, on the opposite side of the school, other officers collar the suspect, 18-year-old Leon Burgess. A half-hour after the phone call, Burgess is on his way to Central Booking. Folio completes the paperwork, charging Burgess with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, then submits the evidence to headquarters at 9 p.m.

By all appearances, it’s a routine drug arrest, done with speed and efficiency, wrapped up neatly and ready for the courts in a matter of hours. But by midnight, it’s Folio, not Burgess, who’s in hot water. Two years later, she still is, because the whole incident was a setup, a police integrity sting designed and conducted by the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division to see if a cop fails to turn in abandoned drugs and money.

Folio properly submitted the contraband, but in her sworn statement charging Burgess with the crime, she seemed to state that she’d seen Burgess place the bag in the bushes. “Prior to the call being received by Agent Folio, the officer was patrolling that particular area and observed three B/M’s at the intersection of E. Pratt St. and S. Ellwood Ave.,” Folio wrote in her statement of probable cause to charge Burgess. “Agent Folio observed one of the B/M’s described as wearing a dark colored baseball cap, white T-shirt, and jean shorts place an object onto the ground behind a bush located against the NW wall of that corner. This individual is further identified as the def. Burgess.”

On March 28, 2003, Folio learned she was in trouble, and was immediately suspended. Although she had no obligation to do so, she wanted to give a statement about the incident because she believed she could convince investigators—or even a grand jury, if it came to that—that she was innocent. She got that opportunity on June 6, 2003, when she waived her rights under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and provided a voluntary statement to Internal Affairs. The department wasn’t convinced; a week later, on June 12, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office indicted her criminally for perjury and misconduct, saying she’d purposefully lied under oath in order to maliciously pin false charges on Burgess.

The Folio indictment appeared to confirm a bad-cop stereotype—the aggressive enforcer who works poor, black neighborhoods and already has a good idea who’s guilty and who’s not, making it easy to pin false charges on a passer-by and rationalize it as removing trouble from the street before it actually happens. It’s offensive, it’s unconstitutional, it’s criminal, and it’s happened before. And Folio’s sworn statement of charges is what it is: Her statement reads that she saw Burgess “place” the stash behind the bush. In order to convict her, the state’s attorney was going to have to prove criminal intent—that Folio did it on purpose.

In December 2003, Folio was acquitted of the criminal charges by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lynn Stewart, who didn’t explain her verdict but apparently bought Folio’s apologetic explanation. Folio testified that the allegedly false statement in Burgess’ charging documents was not intentional and malicious, as the prosecution argued, but the result of vagueness due to a run-on sentence.

“I know what happened that day was clearly in good faith on my part,” Folio said on the stand. “When I say ‘observed’ in my probable cause statement, I was trying to say that I observed the individual who was described by the caller. And when I use the word ‘describe,’ that was based upon the information I received from the caller—that this person, in fact, did fit the description that was given out.”

At the criminal trial, Folio’s long record of complaint-free service, her stints as an academy instructor (she estimates that 90 percent of the current force trained under her), and a stack of letters praising her character and professionalism all served to paint a picture of an officer beyond reproach. But the question of her guilt or innocence apparently remained open from the department’s point of view. Though Folio was found innocent of any criminal charges, nearly a year later, on or about Dec. 14, 2004, BPD decided to take its own crack at her, charging her administratively for her statement in the Burgess arrest papers. Folio could have volunteered to take a polygraph test in an effort to clear her name, but her attorney, Clarke Ahlers, says she never did because the tests are known to be “unreliable”—especially when used to gauge a person’s intent, which was the issue in her case. Nonetheless, “the police department,” Ahlers stresses, “had the right to order her to take one, and they never did.”

Folio’s administrative case would be heard by a police trial board, with three members of the department weighing each side’s arguments before deciding Folio’s professional fate. But the trial board didn’t happen. On March 11, 2005, one business day before the scheduled March 14 hearing, Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm signed a letter immediately ordering that Folio be “removed from her regular permanent position as a Baltimore Police Officer, without fault upon her part.”

Hamm’s move indefinitely postponed the trail-board hearing and forced Folio to retire, which she did officially on March 17. The next day, in order for Folio to be eligible for city health insurance, she and her roommate, Lisa Olszewski, also a city police officer, filed publicly as domestic partners—a decision that was not made lightly, since it officially outted them as a lesbian couple.

Suddenly, the department reversed course. On March 18, the department sent a letter to Ahlers stating that “Folio is under no direct order . . . to retire. In fact, as of this date she is still a member” of the force—despite the fact that Folio had signed retirement papers, as previously directed by the department, the day before.

On March 22, Hamm issued another letter, stating that his March 11 letter ordering Folio out of her job was signed and sent “in error” and that her “job has not been abolished and I am not authorizing a retirement.” As of press time, Folio’s status as a Baltimore City police officer remains in limbo, and she and her lawyer are outraged and baffled. Once you hear her side of this story, it’s not hard to imagine why.

Directly after signing her retirement papers on March 17, Folio and Ahlers arrived at City Paper’s offices to talk. It was the first time Folio had spoken to the press about the matter. Now that she was no longer a member of the force (or so she believed), she was finally free to talk.

“The cost of this case was devastating to me,” Folio lamented in a clear, even-toned Baltimore accent. Physically, she’s obviously strong—an attribute that explains her police academy stints, teaching defensive tactics and physical fitness. And like most cops, she’s practiced at masking her emotions when speaking. But her words themselves, more than her demeanor, gave away the depth of her feelings. “I live in the city, I’ve been a lifelong city resident, and I truly believe in the city. That’s why I’ve been here so long and had complete faith in the police department.

“I guess what hurts me most,” she continued, “is who really suffered here is the citizens of Baltimore—not having me on the street protecting their communities. And if you talk to anyone in the communities that I patrolled, they miss me. To me, that’s who I ultimately work for. And I like to know that when they saw me, for eight hours they at least felt safe at some point. That’s what meant the most to me, that I’m not going to be able to do that anymore.”

The police department has nothing to say about the Folio affair because, BPD spokesman Matt Jablow says, it expects to be sued.

In fact, Ahlers has so notified the department—not formally, but by implication. On March 22—the same day Hamm rescinded his order for Folio to retire—Ahlers sent a six-page letter to the department that, in closing, reviewed Folio’s “rights” in regards to her experience with the department’s internal-affairs bureaucracy. Among them were the rights to “take civil action” in the courts, to “request federal criminal and civil investigation of misconduct by her accusers,” and “to take effective public, political action through the mass media.” Ahlers dangled the prospect of negotiating a financial settlement, but pointed out that “Ms. Folio’s legal obligation to cooperate in any federal criminal investigation” was not negotiable. Reading between the lines, Ahlers was putting the department on the alert that Folio can give as good as she gets.

 

The banner reads HIGHLANDTOWN ‘DRUG-FREE’ MIDDLE SCHOOL. It hangs over a public school, next to a public park, as an early spring day turns to dusk, right when students and working people who live in the area are likely to be enjoying some free time outdoors. This is where and when Internal Affairs chose to place a fake drug stash under bushes next to a public sidewalk—where any youngster might pick up the bag, where any random person passing through might be swept up in the sting and arrested—as a ploy to tempt a cop to steal abandoned contraband.

As Folio experienced it, the “random integrity test”—Internal Affairs’ term for the operation—presented anomalies that raised eyebrows even as it unfolded. Folio says she and other cops who share her beat knew that Pratt and Ellwood is not a drug corner, so the tip itself (phoned in by an Internal Affairs detective) was out of the ordinary. Even Leon Burgess, the man Folio arrested, said as much during a police interrogation: “It’s not even a drug area that they was riding in. I have never even seen . . . drug[s] move through there.”

Stranger still was the condition of the recovered cash: $250 in clean, crisp, new bills, several of them with sequential serial numbers. Folio and another responding officer discussed the unusually fresh bills as soon as they first examined them, and Burgess, when he was interrogated by police officials while still in custody at Central Booking early the next morning, pointed out that “junkies don’t give you straight money like that. Junkies’ money’s sweaty and it’s balled up and all types of stuff.”

The Internal Affairs detectives’ sting also created a victim: Leon Burgess, who was falsely stopped, detained, and arrested as a direct result of the actions of the detectives, who did nothing to stop it. They were the only people on the scene other than Burgess and his friends who knew he was innocent, and the Internal Affairs detectives simply watched the arrest, recording it on tape. What’s more, the tape reveals that the detectives knew that they were watching trouble unfolding at the time.

Internal Affairs sergeants Terry Ressin and Robert Morris were sitting in a surveillance vehicle during the sting, and their video camera recorded their discussion as Burgess was accosted by the patrol officers. According to the transcript (which was provided by Ahlers to City Paper, along with the rest of Folio’s records of the case), Ressin remarked, “If they lock him up, we got problems.”

Morris responded that Folio is “supposed to be a decent girl. I think she’ll probably just get numbers for found property and lock him up for [inaudible], all we can hope that anyway.”

Ressin’s retort: “And if not, we’re all screwed.”

As it turned out, Internal Affairs was not screwed, but Folio was—with Burgess as collateral damage. “They know this is illegal,” Ahlers says of the detectives’ recorded conversation as they watched Folio arrest Burgess. “[Internal Affairs] had let a person be unconstitutionally stopped, detained, and arrested. He had no business being stopped because [Internal Affairs] knew, when they gave the description out [to 911], that it was a fiction. They know this is illegal,” he argues emphatically, growing visibly exercised. “Jackie doesn’t know that. She’s been dispatched to a felony in progress!”

What’s more, during Folio’s criminal trial it came to light that this particular test came with a heightened risk of a false arrest built in. Under cross-examination, the Internal Affairs detective who designed the sting, Brian Winder, admitted that the plan was to have Resin call 911 with a description “that mirrors persons in the area and advise . . . that the person described is dealing drugs” (emphasis added), almost guaranteeing the prospect of the false arrest of a passing civilian.

Elsewhere in Winder’s testimony at Folio’s trial, the detective acknowledged that he designed the test without a written manual to help him navigate potential pitfalls—what actions to take should someone be falsely stopped, detained, or arrested as a result of the test. (In July 2004, after Winder left Internal Affairs, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.) Indeed, a federal class-action discrimination lawsuit brought against the department in December 2004 by a large group of African-American officers asserts that “BPD has no written investigatory standards, policy, or training for members of [Internal Affairs].”

Folio says she has read a portion of a 1990s New York Police Department manual for doing internal-affairs stings, which explains what to do when faced with an unexpected problem, such as a false arrest. “It spells out, if it goes bad, what they need to do to stop it,” Folio pointed out.

“Suppose, for example,” Ahlers says, picking up on the theme, “if Officer Folio had pointed a gun at Burgess, would they then interrupt it? I mean, at what point were they willing to say, ‘Jeez, now things have deteriorated to the point that she may use deadly force, maybe now we ought to admit that the suspect is not the felon because it’s a fictitious felony.’”

 

Unprepared for the complications that arose from the sting gone wrong, BPD began tossing the problem up the chain of command like a hot potato. As Internal Affairs sergeants Ressin and Moore followed the police van that was transporting Burgess to Central Booking, Ressin phoned his supervisor, Lt. Ross Buzzuro. “We gave out a description,” Ressin explained, according to the surveillance-tape transcript, “and they, ah, actually stopped somebody a couple of blocks away, who fit the description and they locked him up.” (Emphasis in the original.)

Then Ressin called the lieutenant colonel in charge of Internal Affairs at the time, George Mitchell, to brief him on the situation. “They actually stopped somebody,” he recounted to Mitchell. “I don’t know yet if they found something on him while they were checking him or if they’re going to charge him with our stash. If it was our stuff,” Ressin added, “then we got problems.” Then, to an inaudible comment made by Mitchell, he responded, “Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping, but if not then we’ll do what we have to do.”

What had to be done, subsequent events make clear, was to stick the whole mess on Folio, based on her statement of charges against Burgess, which was completed by 8:30 p.m. At 10:30 p.m. on March 27, 2003, the evening of the arrest, the department’s then-chief of special projects, Sean Malone, was first contacted about the incident. Twenty minutes later, Mitchell briefed one of his Internal Affairs lieutenants, and sent another to the Southeastern District station house to await shift change, when Folio would be present. At 11:45 p.m., Folio arrived for shift change, and was immediately summoned to her shift commander’s office. By midnight, the Southeastern District commander, Maj. John Long, was advised by Mitchell of Folio’s “impropriety” in writing up an allegedly false report. Minutes later, two Internal Affairs detectives escorted Folio to the Internal Affairs offices to read her her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights. Her police powers were suspended immediately, and she was assigned to work at the Baltimore City Juvenile Detention Center.

Burgess, meanwhile, was locked up at Central Booking, where the booking process was completed by about 8:15 p.m. At 12:45 a.m. on March 28—just as Folio, at Internal Affairs, was being read her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights for having wrongfully arrested him, an innocent man—Burgess was taken out of a group cell at Central Booking and put in a room to be interrogated by Malone, Internal Affairs Lt. Joseph Smith, and Internal Affairs Det. Anthony Vaeth. The interview lasted for 35 minutes. Afterward, Burgess was returned to the cell and remained locked up until 2:45 a.m., when he was finally released and given a lift to his East Baltimore home by Malone, Smith, and Vaeth.

It’s clear from the transcript of that interview that Burgess believed he was officially under arrest when Malone, Smith, and Vaeth interrogated him. Smith even re-read him his Miranda rights on the record, an act that further veiled the fact that the police knew he was innocent, had been wrongfully arrested, and was now being wrongfully held and interrogated. It was then more than six hours after his false arrest, and no one had told him he was free to leave.

 

Ahlers, during the interview at City Paper right after Folio’s March 17 retirement, says he was particularly shocked at Malone’s conduct in handling Burgess: “His first concern, when he arrived at Central Booking that night, should have been to release Burgess. What he does instead is he scams Burgess by bringing him into a room and giving him Miranda. He knows, if he’s got an ounce of sense, that Internal Affairs has done something grossly unconstitutional here, and illegal, and that the city has liability. And so he takes what they’ve done, and he looks at Jackie Folio’s statement of charges, and he says, ‘Here’s the out. This ambiguous sentence here, we’ll put it on the officer.’

“The proof of that is that they never even call Jackie Folio to figure out the ambiguity. They never even asked her, ‘Is this accurate?’ She’s passed the test they designed. She’s turned in all the drugs, all the money. She has no history of ever getting a complaint. In fact, on the [Internal Affairs] tape one of them says she’s supposed to be a good officer.”

In fact, according to the case record, as the Burgess interrogation was winding down that night, the decision to criminally indict Folio had already been made. At 1:15 in the morning, Lt. Col. Mitchell of Internal Affairs notified Thomas Krehely, the assistant state’s attorney who handles police corruption cases; in turn, Krehely advised Mitchell to “gather info, interview people, and meet week of April 1, 2003 for an indictment.” Folio didn’t know her fate was sealed already. On June 6, 2003,when she waived her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights and gave a voluntary statement, it was because she thought she could avoid indictment.

The morning after the sting, the press coverage began. “The Sunpapers breaks the story,” Ahlers recalls, “that Jackie Folio has committed a crime. That she put drugs on an innocent suspect. And if you compare the stories in the Sunpapers—there are two stories two days in a row—if you compare that, it’s verbatim [from] the Leon Burgess interrogation. Now, who would have leaked that? Well, the department runs this ridiculous theory by me—Leon Burgess called the reporter. The idea that he knows which reporter he should talk to at the Sunpapers to generate an article of interest, and that this was an [Internal Affairs] undercover operation—a fact that was not known to him—is absolutely absurd.”

Folio learned only earlier this year, in preparation for the trial board, that Burgess was interrogated by Malone the night of the sting—a fact that brings up another gripe from Ahlers about how the case was conducted. After the administrative charges were filed and the hearing approached, both sides shared information in a legal process called “discovery,” just as they had before the criminal trial. This time, though, Folio and Ahlers received evidence from the police department that hadn’t been provided to them, as required, during the earlier criminal proceedings. Some of the late-arriving evidence was proving helpful in preparing a strong defense for the trial board, but it also would have helped strengthen Folio’s successful defense before Judge Stewart.

“The transcript [of the Burgess interrogation] was one of the documents that was not produced by the police [before] the criminal trial,” Ahlers stresses. “And the person who makes the decision about what information the police department gives to the state’s attorneys office, who must provide it to the defense, is the chief of legal, Sean Malone. So he intentionally did not disclose that.”

Actually, Malone at that time was not chief of legal—a position department spokesman Matt Jablow says Malone had left in 2002—so the difficulties Ahlers had during the discovery process may not have been Malone’s fault. At the time, Jablow explains, Malone was chief of special projects, a job with vague and wide-ranging duties that even Jablow couldn’t summarize. And yet Malone was closely involved with the Folio case; when Ahlers phoned the department to speak to the chief of legal about Folio’s case, he says he found himself talking to Malone, who, Ahlers says, represented himself as chief of legal.

Malone, now the city’s labor commissioner, did not respond to phone calls or a letter hand-delivered and faxed to his office requesting comment for this story.

 

Clarke Ahlers has been a lawyer since 1986, but before that he had been with the Howard County Police Department since 1972—initially as a 17-year-old cadet, later as an officer. That helps explain why he was so taken aback when he first spoke with Sean Malone on the phone about the Folio case.

Ahlers says the conversation took place right after Folio had hired him. (Herbert Weiner, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police union, represented Folio when she was suspended, right after the incident, but Folio hired Ahlers shortly thereafter.) Having learned the details of Folio’s case, Ahlers decided the best course of action was to tell her side of the story to the department, which might decide that charges weren’t warranted. So he contacted the department’s legal affairs division, asked to talk to its chief, and ended up talking to Sean Malone.

“In my mind I’m picturing a 30-year salty veteran,” Ahlers recalls, “somebody who is a former police officer-turned-lawyer, been around the block, and knows everything there is to know.” In fact, at the time, Malone was 36. When he’d been selected as the BPD’s top attorney in 2000, he’d been a lawyer for 18 months. But he was a close friend and adviser of Mayor Martin O’Malley’s, having managed his election campaigns and been a bartender at McGinn’s (now Mick O’Shea’s) where O’Malley’s Irish rock band often played. Malone’s previous law-enforcement career before becoming BPD’s top legal authority consisted of an approximately six-month stint as a prosecutor in Baltimore County.

Ahlers says he began his initial telephone conversation with Malone by offering to give Folio’s side of the story in hopes of preventing criminal charges. He says Malone cut him off and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that Folio was at fault in wrongfully arresting Burgess, end of story. Ahlers says he countered that his client believed she was making a legitimate arrest thanks to the bogus anonymous tip describing a suspect; Ahlers says he was then shocked to hear the police department’s ostensible top legal expert counter that stopping a citizen under such pretenses was unconstitutional, when in fact, Ahlers points out, it is quite constitutional and standard police practice. Regardless, Ahlers says, Malone was apparently unmoved by the argument and cut the conversation short.

It all adds up, in Ahlers’ mind, to a Malone-inspired attempt to hide Internal Affairs misdeeds. Malone, Ahlers allows, “could fairly evaluate the case and say Jackie Folio did something wrong. Reasonable minds can disagree. And I respect if that’s his belief. And he has a job to do. What I didn’t understand, until recently, was he was engaged all along in protecting [Internal Affairs] from their misconduct. Reasonable minds can’t agree about that. That’s not his job.”

Folio was caught up in a “random integrity test,” ostensibly designed to create a situation that any cop in the vicinity could end up responding to, but she says she wonders how random her test actually was. About a month prior to the Burgess incident, Folio says, she responded as a backup to a very similar (and fruitless) call for drug activity a block from her Southeastern District post. And, she says, her girlfriend, Officer Lisa Olszewski, believes she was the target of a similar test set up two weeks after the Burgess sting. Since Internal Affairs won’t tell officers when or whether they’ve been tested, or if they passed, there’s no way to know for sure if the incidents were, in fact, Internal Affairs integrity tests.

Folio isn’t the only one with questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the methods the BPD uses to police its officers. A group of African-American officers filed a discrimination lawsuit last December against the city and the police department alleging that the department selectively uses disciplinary procedures to discriminate against certain types of officers. The lawsuit’s charges, which go all the way back to 1992, include allegations that Malone, as chief of legal from 2000 to 2002, discriminated by initiating investigations of officers, deciding which charges would be brought or dismissed, and influencing the outcomes of charges against them, including in trial-board matters.

The city’s response to the discrimination lawsuit casts off the allegations as an “attempt to undermine the disciplinary procedures” of the department, and claims that Malone enjoys “absolute immunity for any claim arising from their conduct in initiating and prosecuting disciplinary charges.”

Of course, problems with the department’s self-policing pre-date Malone. A 1996 study by the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission determined that 75 percent of terminated officers were black, even though black officers made up less than half the force. The study also found that 90 percent of black officers who went to department trial board were found guilty, while only 60 percent of white officers called before trial board met the same fate.

The commission’s report prompted a probe by the City Council’s Legislative Investigations Committee, headed at that time by then-Councilman Martin O’Malley. At its conclusion in 1998, O’Malley’s committee issued another report that confirmed widespread disparities in the disciplinary treatment of black and white officers, concluding that the most shameful aspect of the findings was “our failure to root out these problems when they are brought to our attention.”

Steve Kearney, the mayor’s director of policy and communications, says the police department under the O’Malley administration in 2000 started the integrity test program—the very one that netted Folio—as “a direct outcome” of the 1998 report, and that, in addition, the selection of trial board members has become random and less politicized than in the past. Department spokesman Jablow says that the IAD has conducted 460 integrity tests since 2000 and that four officers have failed them. He would not name the officers who failed; presumably, Jackie Folio is one of them.

 

“I’ve never seen stuff like this,” says a 30-plus-year BPD veteran who spent more than a decade doing internal investigations. He asked not to be named out of fear of retribution before his pending retirement. “It’s really gotten out of control, with the state’s attorney working as an instrument of [Internal Affairs], taking weak cases like Folio’s, indicting, and losing,” the BPD veteran says. “It’s done to harass, embarrass, and coerce [people] into resigning. But I’ve never, ever seen them do what they’re doing to Jackie—abolish some police officer’s position just to avoid letting them have a trial board. It’s profoundly befuddling.”

The “nucleus” of these problems, the veteran agrees, “is Malone, but he’s the mayor’s guy, so nobody steps up and objects.”

The way to make good police-corruption cases, he advises, is to “do them targeted, based on good intelligence—so-and-so’s dirty, so target him and find out. Maybe it takes three, four weeks to set up a targeted, but you end up with good, strong cases—and there are good cases out there to be made.

“But the mayor likes randoms, because it represents numbers,” the veteran continues. “With large numbers of randoms—which take a few days to set up—you can rack up the numbers and say you’re working hard to clean up the department, even though all you’re really doing is taking resources away from targeted cases. With randoms, more times than not, you end up with nothing.”

Former BPD sergeant Andre Street, a 25-year veteran who retired in 1995, remembers how random tests in the past had to be designed for total control of the environment. For example, Internal Affairs detectives might have planted a couple of joints in plain view on the floorboards of a patrol car: “They’d watch, do [the officers] follow procedures? Do they keep it, whether for personal use or as drop items to pin charges on a suspect? It was controlled because it didn’t put citizens at risk. Whatever you do you should do without involving the public. You have to plan for every contingency and be prepared to pull the plug at any time and say, ‘The gig’s up.’”

Ahlers, too, has a few ideas about how better to go about catching corrupt police. “Almost every study ever done about police corruption,” he asserts, “says that you look at the vice and narcotics units, not patrol. If you’re trying to find out if police officers get free coffee at 7-Eleven, yeah, maybe patrol officers are involved in that. But if you are looking for who is protecting organizations of criminals, you have to look at units that go after organized crime. At that level, what the criminal wants to know is, can they pay somebody for information or can they pay somebody for protection, and that’s really not going to happen at the uniformed officer patrol level.

“There are a lot of ways they could do this. Instead, they end up doing Jackie Folio and trying to cover up their own culpability.”

 

In the Folio case, a poorly planned and executed random sting netted a police officer allegedly lying in charging documents and inadvertently raised questions that cut right to the heart of how police are policed in this town. But what happened to Burgess, the falsely arrested suspect? His post-sting story suggests even more problems.

On April 15, 2003, about two weeks after the Folio sting, Burgess allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer on the 3700 block of East Pratt Street and was charged with conspiracy theft. On July 24 of that year, the state’s attorney declined to prosecute the charges. On May 1, 2003, Burgess earned assault and deadly-weapon charges thanks to his alleged connection with a large, drug-related fracas in the 3600 block of Eastern Avenue, but the state’s attorney declined to prosecute those charges, either. On Aug. 28, 2003, Burgess was charged with indecent exposure when he allegedly tried to force his way—while openly masturbating—into a woman’s home on the 2000 block of East Baltimore Street as she tried to stop him. The state’s attorney declined to take those charges to court, as well. On Oct. 29, 2003, Burgess was stopped on Conkling Street in Highlandtown after police say they observed him throw suspected drugs to the ground, and then, after searching him, found more drugs. The possession charge against him resulting from the incident was not pursued by the state’s attorney’s office. Burgess accrued all of these charges prior to his giving testimony at the December 2003 criminal trial of Jackie Folio.

Burgess’ attorney, William Buie, tells City Paper he advises his client, who is currently locked up and awaiting trial on several violent charges, including rape, not to talk to the paper while the current charges are pending. Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Krehely had not returned calls by press time requesting an interview regarding the past charges against Burgess, or any deal police and prosecutors may have struck with him.

Burgess seems to have enjoyed extraordinary luck in avoiding any recriminations for a time, but police and prosecutors have managed to force Folio to retire, even when they failed to prove she was criminally culpable for pinning false charges on Burgess. And now, with Commissioner Hamm having retracted his order forcing her to retire, it is possible Folio may be asked to return to duty and then fired by the department if she fails to comply.

On April 4, department spokesman Jablow told City Paper that, in fact, Folio’s trial board hearing had been rescheduled for later this month—and trial boards are only held in matters involving police officers, not retired police officers. Moreover, as this story was going to press on April 5, the spokesman issued a written statement denying that Folio’s being made the patsy for the department’s failures.

“Agent Folio’s allegations of a conspiracy are entirely untrue,” BPD’s statement reads. “The truth is that she has been charged administratively with making a false statement—a statement that resulted in an innocent man being arrested. The citizens of Baltimore demand and deserve better. In light of these charges, an internal hearing board will soon be convened to determine if Agent Folio violated police department policy.”

Folio laughs when told over the phone about the rescheduled hearing—BPD told the press about it before notifying her. “Isn’t that lovely?” she jokes. Then the laughter stops, and her voice turns serious and sad.

“I feel like I’m in an abusive domestic relationship,” she says. “I never thought I’d be going out like this.”

Related stories

Feature archives

More Stories

IRS Auditing Fewer Big Companies, More Small Ones (4/12/2010)
IRS Auditing Fewer Big Companies, More Small Ones

The Ghost Hand (3/24/2010)
Maryland law enforcers aim to take the pot by secretly sitting at the online gambling table

Battle for the Badge (2/17/2010)
Longstanding Baltimore City Sheriff's re-election is already competitive

More from Van Smith

Blunderbusted (8/5/2010)
Two Maryland Men indicted in Arizona for illegal machine guns

The Big Hurt (8/4/2010)
Inmate claims gang-tied correctional officer ordered "hit"

Not a Snitch (7/22/2010)
Court filing mistakenly called murdered activist an informant, police say

Comments powered by Disqus
Calendar
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter