N.Baltimore officer disciplined
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 09:40
NORTH BALTIMORE - A village police officer has been disciplined following an incident at a grocery store where he allegedly screamed at a woman and caused her to feel "scared, belittled, embarrassed" and "terrified."
Officer Robert Fitzgerald has been given a letter of reprimand as well as a document in his personnel file indicating he was given corrective action following the August incident, according to police Chief Allan Baer.
The incident was discussed at Tuesday's council meeting when a citizen expressed frustration with the discipline Fitzgerald was given.
"So, basically you are telling me nothing is going to be done," said Chad Bretz, who addressed council Tuesday on the woman's behalf.
Baer replied, "He was disciplined according to the handbook and I have to follow that."
Baer also said a written reprimand can have a lasting impact on an officer.
"It can follow him for a long time," he said, and can impact promotions, special assignments and future jobs.
According to the complaint filed by the woman with the police department, she left her 2-year-old son in a car outside a local grocery store while she ran inside to get a can of beef. The air conditioner was on and the duration of the grocery shopping was two minutes, according to the report.
While in the store, the woman heard her name being called out over the intercom.
"Officer Fitzgerald screams at me in front of everyone in the store to 'Get outside now.'"
Next, according to the report, the two walked outside where he allegedly started screaming at her.
"I kept telling him I was sorry and he screamed back, 'Don't you say sorry to me, you need to say that to your son.'
"All this time that he's yelling at me he is right in my face, spitting on me in front of everyone in the parking lot," the woman wrote in her report.
The woman said she "felt so scared, belittled, embarrassed that I got back in my car and started crying."
She said she was not issued a citation following the incident.
"The thing that really concerns me, Mr. Mayor, is that we have an officer treating our public like this. It's disheartening," said council member Aaron Patterson.
"We have citizens who are terrified of our police officers," he continued.
While the woman initially had Chad Bretz speak on her behalf, she later answered questions from council members.
Council member Bill Cameron asked her if she was satisfied with the outcome of the internal investigation.
"The first time I talked to him (Chief Baer), he was nice and I was assured it was going to be taken care of," she said.
She now feels disappointment in the discipline Fitzgerald was given.
"People get those (written reprimands) at work all the time. It's no big deal," she said.
Baer said the woman's complaint was the first written complaint he had received for the officer.
"That is why we have a disciplinary procedure. We all make mistakes. We should all be held accountable and he was," Baer said. "I can only do what's in the handbook."
Following discussion of the incident, Patterson said, "It's just very disheartening what this department has come to."
Baer replied and said Patterson's comment was broad.
Patterson later said, "If you want to sit down sometime, I can show you the list of complaints and allegations against your department, I'd be glad to."
Baer replied, "That would be great."
Also at Tuesday's meeting council:
• Approved the hiring of two additional firefighters to bring the department's staffing level to 31. The two new hires will have to go through fire school first.
• Approved a social media policy for village employees. Council member Jeff Bretz voted against the legislation and expressed concern over a specific section of the policy.
• Went into executive session to discuss an investigation of charges or a complaint against a public employee. No action was expected.
• Heard Trick-or-Treat will be Oct. 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and the Halloween Parade will be Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.