A Baltimore County police officer who was scheduled to go before the department’s first public trial board Monday will instead return to work after internal charges against him were dismissed this week.
Police Chief Terry Sheridan dismissed the charges against Officer Ernest Hannig, who faced termination after an internal affairs investigation concluded that he used excessive force when he used a Taser on a Rosedale man last June.
Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said in an email that Sheridan consulted with the department’s legal affairs section before he “dismissed the charges in the interest of justice and fairness after additional information came to light.”
Armacost declined to elaborate, saying the department does not comment on personnel matters. She also said Sheridan declined to comment on the case.
Hannig’s attorney, Michael L. Marshall, called the charges “baseless.”
“I wish this happened sooner. I give credit to Chief Sheridan,” Marshall said Friday.
He criticized the department’s internal affairs unit “for letting it get to this.”
An internal investigation concluded that Hannig used excessive force and lied on an incident report after an incident involving Charles Chapman.
On June 16, 2016, Hannig was called to the Rosedale area, where witnesses reported Chapman was disrobing on a ramp from U.S. 40 onto the Baltimore Beltway.
Hannig said the man’s behavior changed from being “highly aggressive to being relatively calm and catatonic,” and that he used his Taser because Chapman began to walk toward him with clenched fists, according to a disciplinary report on the incident.
A supervisor who later reviewed Taser camera video of the incident said Hannig “embellished the actions of Mr. Chapman in order to justify a use of force that was out of policy,” and recommended his termination.
Marshall disputed the department’s contention that Hannig lied. He said Hannig felt Chapman was coming at him, which was reflected in the video. He also noted that Hannig was aware that the incident was being recorded and would be reviewed.
During the internal investigation, Hannig was suspended with pay and lost his police powers.
Before the charges were dismissed, he had been scheduled to go before the trial board, a three-member panel made up of a commander, a lieutenant and a person of the same rank as the accused, which can make its own recommendations to the police chief.
Armacost said Hannig, a 15-year veteran of the department, remains assigned to the mobile crisis unit. The unit pairs a mental health clinician with officers for calls involving people with known or suspected mental health issues.
“He’s obviously glad to be going to work,” Marshall said of Hannig.
Chapman was not seriously injured in the incident, Marshall said. He was taken to a hospital to have the Taser prongs removed and was not charged in the incident.
Neither Chapman nor his family could be reached for comment.