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January 11, 2011

Slain officer Torbit was on-duty

Since early Sunday, the Sun has written two in-depth accounts of the fatal shooting outside a night club near downtown, but one point seems to be unclear, not only among readers but also some reporters and politicians: Officer William H. Torbit Jr. (seen at right) was on-duty when he responded to help quell the unruly crowd outside of Select Lounge. 

In the summer, the shooting of a Marine by an off-duty officer in Mount Vernon raised questions about whether officers should carry their weapons while consuming alcohol. That is not the case in this shooting - Torbit, a plainclothes officer assigned to the Central District, responded to a distress call from an officer already at the club trying to handle the crowd. His badge was either not visible or ripped off during the melee, according to the account pieced together by sources, police, and witnesses.

That point seems lost among many readers, who posted comments and e-mailed us wanting to know what Torbit's blood alcohol content was and wanting to revisit the off-duty weapon policy.

Sun reporter Jill Rosen sought comment on the shooting from councilmembers Monday, and City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young seemed to think Torbit was working security at the bar:

“With secondary employment, we need to make sure our officers know where officers are at all times — who they are and where they are,” Young said. “Somebody should have recognized him. We should at least be able to identify our own.”

Young said that the police department might consider having officers with second jobs wear something that would identify them as police.

“How can you identify another police officer unless they’re wearing something that says police?” he asked. “I feel this is something we probably could have avoided.”

Not only was Torbit not working secondary employment at Select Lounge, city police officers have been prohibited from moonlighting as bar security for more than two years, when Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III issued a ban. Instead, in key areas such as Power Plant Live and Federal Hill, police have pooled money from businesses to pay uniformed officers to work overtime at the direction of police commanders - not bar owners.

Union president Robert F. Cherry says the union and police commanders have crafted a proposal that would allow officers to resume working second jobs at bars, but he says the proposal has been sitting on Bealefeld's desk for months without a response.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:29 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: City Hall, Downtown, Police shootings, South Baltimore


Jack Young is a fool so why would anyone put any credence in anything that he has to say? These remarks that he made just continue to show what a joke the leaders in Baltimore City are. They are being exposed, but are the voters really paying attention? Dixon was by prosecution. Jessamy finally got exposed too. Young needs to learn two very simple words and he would keep his silly self out of trouble: "No Comment". Unfortunately, he thinks he's smarter than everyone until his feet are held to the fire. Did you get a nice Christmas card from the Council President this year Jayne Miller?

I attend this club almost every saturday and there has never been no altercations or fights. I was there that night but decided to leave early. I also know the boy Sean who was innocently killed. My opinion, no one should be undercover and if they are they should be identifiable and this would have NEVER happened. Sean was a sweet boy who Ive known since elementary school. He has left this earth leaving parents,siblings, friends, a fiancee, and a son who will never know him. Police officers should have never fired into a crowd of people. I dont care who has a gun. You should mase the crowd not shoot and now Baltimore City Police have REALLY messed up now.

@Tierra--first, let me say, I am sorry for your loss. But I think that a lot of your post was coming from emotions rather than rational thought. The BCPD officers involved seem to have made tremendous mistakes. No doubt. 41 shots fired with no apparent shots fired by others. That doesn't look good. But to say that Sean was "innocently killed" when you weren't even there may be going too far. You may be absolutely right and he was killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we don't know that yet. And your point about officers being undercover but still being identifiable is just idiotic. You can't be undercover if you are able to be identified. These two things are mutually exclusive. Again, my condolences and I hope that we all learn the truth about what happened that night because as someone that has no emotional involvement in this story, I want to know what really happened.

@what, I agree w/everything that you said. However, my friend, (the officer) that was killed was doing his job. He responded to the call as any sworn officer in the area should have.If back up was called or someone called because of the melee, the other officers heard on their radios that backup was coming. Logically speaking it could be any available officer (whether, uniform or plain clothes). So they should have been on point. When they call for officer down, officers from all over come, (different districts, plain clothes, uniforms, detectives, etc).I just believe it was carelessness. @Tierra, you are not the only one who loss someone special. Officer Torbit was a great man. You don't hear too many people stating how great an officer is (these days) anymore; but the community where he patrolled gave him a candle light visual because he was just that type of officer that was loved and respected by anyone that he came in contact with. I believe that his badge shown, but with the meelee, it could have been overlooked. Sure, I wish all these statements and comments could bring both of the deceased back, but it can't. Now, ones focus should be on the truth and exactly what happened. Which will be determined in the next few weeks. So, stay tuned.

More black cops are killed working undercover by fellow cops than they are by the crooks. Some is terribly wrong with that picture. Has the profile and stereotype of what a criminal looks like become so imbedded in the human psych that even cops can't recognize their own?
In NY, cops killing and serious injuring fellow black cops became something of an epidemic. All for what? To catch a drug addict with an ounce or two of crack? And the charges will most likely be dismissed in court because the cops didn't fully follow the rules or were caught being deceptive? Is it really worth it? All this policing and criminalization of everything American and America has just led to overflowing jails and prisons and dead, injured cops or cops who overtime get caught up in criminal activity themselves.

Back UP, America! Take a breather! Take a closer look...these laws haven't made us a safer society. They've only made our society more volatile and explosive than most anytime in history.

The only ones making a killing of this are the private prison industries.

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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