Twenty-five Baltimore correctional officers were indicted Tuesday with allegations of assaulting and threatening detainees in a state-run jail, tampering with evidence and falsifying correctional documents. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Friedman released most of them Wednesday, pending their trial.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office secured these 25 indictments. All of the officers had been on administrative leave since the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services launched the investigation into these allegations in 2018. Mosby said “rumors and anecdotes” sparked the investigation. All of the officers were part of the Baltimore Central Regional Tactical Unit, a unit that operated within four jails in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County, Maryland: the Metropolitan Transition Center, the Baltimore Pretrial Facility, the state Corrections Department’s Jail Industries Building and Baltimore City Booking and Intake Facility.
On Wednesday, Friedman called the charges “very disturbing,” but said she did not believe the officers were a danger to the public, which is why she chose to release them before their trial.
“I don’t think these are men running around the streets of Baltimore wreaking havoc,” she said.
However, she also gave the officers warnings and set bail for Sgt. Monte Williams, one of the accused.
“I can assure you,” she told Officer Devon Telp, another one of the indicted, “You are going to be watched very closely. I’m not playing.”
Prosecutors argued Friedman should not release the officers because of their alleged violent acts, citing an incident where one inmate had his jaw broken and another had his wrist fractured.
The Baltimore Sun published the indictment that outlines these incidents.
Twenty-one of the 25 officers were taken into custody Tuesday, and all 25 face a combined 236 counts, including assault and participating in a criminal gang. Now, the indicted officers will be suspended without pay.
The indictment against the officers includes allegations of abuse of force against 25 prisoners in incidents that date back to 2016. The investigators gathered evidence using surveillance footage and interviews with staff. Mosby said the officers committed these acts of violence to maintain dominance and operational territory in the jail.
The indictment also says the officers used social media to tout themselves and used gestures like winks, nods and other body language to indicate to one another when a supervisor or “non-member” was in the room.
The tactical unit’s supervisor, Capt. Kevin Hickson, 49, is one of the named indicted. He is accused of being the “organizer, supervisor, promoter and manager” of the activity and outlined 47 allegations of assault by him or other members on the team.
Baltimore has a history of corruption in jails and prisons.
Maryland has been cracking down on police misconduct and brutality, especially following the 2015 death of the young Black man Freddie Gray while he was in police custody, which yielded a consent decree by the federal government.
In 2015, the state closed the men’s section of the Baltimore jail after years of it being commonplace knowledge that the facility was decrepit and rife with crime and corruption. In 2013, a federal investigation revealed the Baltimore City Detention Center was home to a sophisticated smuggling ring that involved both gang members and officers. It also found a gang leader had impregnated four guards.
Robert Green, secretary of the state corrections department, said Tuesday he does not see the indictment or previous convictions as evidence of failure, but of a better system that has been holding corrupt officers to account.
“I don’t see it as a failure. Evidence here today is that we investigated this case, we brought this forward,” Green said. “It is a committed effort to be excellent.”
The next court appearance for these officers will take place in January.
Related Story: Baltimore Police Announce Reformed Use of Force Policies