Responding to a call about a man with a gun being disruptive in a 7-11 convenience store earlier this month, Baltimore police arrived and discovered it was one of their own, a cop named Fabien Laronde who has a long history of complaints against him during his 14-year career.
But because he is a cop, Baltimore police are under no obligation to inform the public about what took place the night of October 4, the night before his birthday.
All they can say is that he is suspended with pay as police “investigate” the incident at the 7-11.
WBAL-TV called 7-11’s corporate officers, who referred calls to police. And while police say he is “under investigation,” they were clear to let the news station know that it was not a “criminal investigation,” which usually only applies to non-police officers.
And yes, there is likely video of the incident, but don’t count on that being released any time soon.
But do count on him being back on the beat soon.
Laronde, after all, is a cop who has been accused of everything from planting drugs to stealing drugs to strip searching people for drugs in public without probable cause.
He has been with the department for 14 years. His paper trail stretches from City Hall to the federal court to the city’s Circuit Court. City taxpayers have paid out money to settle lawsuits against Laronde more than once.
In July 2006, Laronde testified in a federal court hearing that he had been accused of planting evidence and had, at that time, pending complaints of use of excessive force. The outcome of the complaints is not known.
In July 2009, a man claimed he was strip-searched by Laronde at a shopping center parking lot and released without any charges. A lawsuit the man filed was dismissed because of confusion over the incident’s date.
In June 2011, a man claimed Laronde stole $770 from him after an arrest for marijuana possession, a charge that was later dismissed. The case settled out of court for an unknown amount.
In April 2012, the city paid a man and woman $155,000 to settle their lawsuit against Laronde and two other officers. The man claimed he was strip-searched. Both claimed they were assaulted on the street.
Most recently, the city paid $20,000 to a man who claimed Laronde and another officer unlawfully detained him inside the Baltimore City Circuit Court. The man was employee of the court clerk.
Laronde does not have to worry about any serious discipline because he is protected by the Maryland Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, a law that allows cops to trample on the actual Bill of Rights without fear of repercussions.
Say that the police suspect a civilian of a horrible crime, like killing a man by breaking his spine. Within the crucial first 24 hours after the crime, the cops would put the man in a room, read him his Miranda warnings and then go to work. They would try to get him to talk, perhaps by lying to him, or threatening him, or by wearing him down. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But any cop worth her salt would try because, hell, it’s homicide investigation.
Unless, thanks to the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, it’s a homicide investigation of a police officer. Lucky for them, those cops don’t get treated like some suspect. Among other things, they get 10 days before they have to say a mumbling word.
It’s strange that a law that thwarts transparency and accountability is called a “bill of rights.” The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights has the same relationship to a real bill of rights that the Patriot Act has to a real patriot. The real Bill of Rights — the one enshrined in the United States Constitution — actually limits the power of government, including the police.
The ACLU of Maryland have also been calling for reform of the law.
Enacted in 1974, Maryland’s LEOBR is one of the most extreme such laws in the country. It covers two components of the disciplinary process: the internal investigations that may lead to a recommendation of disciplinary action against a police officer and procedures that must be followed once an investigation results in a recommendation of discipline.
As currently structured, LEOBR grants police officers special rights when they are investigated for misconduct, imposes significant impediments to conducting an adequate investigation and takes responsibility for discipline away from police chiefs. Significantly, LEOBR is a substantial barrier to transparency that precludes meaningful civilian oversight of the disciplinary process. And because of these flaws, a great many people have no faith that the officers who police our communities will be held accountable when they act improperly.
And although efforts to reform the law arose again after the Freddie Gray death, both citizens and cops know nothing is going to change.