Police union fights back for fired officer in Harbor incident
The president of the Baltimore police union, Robert Cherry, lashed out at the city's police commissioner who today fired the police offer who three years ago berated a 14-year-old skateboarder at the Inner Harbor.
The incident was capture on video and posted to YouTube (video posted on earlier blog). A police disciplinary panel had acquitted officer Salvatore Rivieri of the most serious charges, using excessive and unnecessary force and discourtesies. The panel instead convicted the officer of administrative charges of failing to file a report and recommended a five-day suspension.
Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld disagreed and upped the punishment to termination. His office declined to comment further. But Cherry had a lot to say:
“It’s outrageous,” Cherry said. “It’s well beyond the punishment that should’ve been meted out. … This is the mechanism to police the police. The trial board is judge and jury. They have seen this video over and over again. Officer Rivieri took the stand and testified and was cross-examined by city lawyers.”
Cherry said that what Bealefeld did was akin to a “jury coming back with a verdict of acquittal and the prosecutor saying, ‘Hell no, put him in the chair and electrocute him.’ That’s what the commissioner just did.”
The union president said that “whether you agree or disagree with Sal’s tactics, he didn’t curse, he didn’t beat this kid. He gave the kid his skateboard back and called his mother.” Cherry also noted that neither Bush nor his mother filed a complaint until seven months after the July 1, 2007 encounter, after the video appeared on YouTube.
“Obviously the trial board saw something different than the police commissioner,” Cherry said.
Cherry later sent this statement:
The FOP has worked diligently with the BPD over the years to ensure that our disciplinary process for police officers is fair and equitable. There is a process in place to "police the police" and in this instance the departmental trial board - members of the BPD selected from a list and agreed upon by both the PC's legal team and the police officer - listened to all the evidence and returned a verdict of not guilty on all the serious charges, finding Police Officer Sal Rivieri guilty of failing to submit a police report and recommended 5 days loss of leave.
For the PC to increase the punishment to termination is an abuse of his discretion and not only does it end the career of a 19 year veteran who was out there doing his job, the PC's decision sends the wrong message to all our police officers who are expected to aggressively keep our streets safe but cannot expect to be treated fairly and not discriminated against in any disciplinary proceedings. We will appeal the decision of the PC on behalf of Police Officer Rivieri.