February 23, 2011
A dozen or more Baltimore city police officers have been arrested this morning in connection with a federal corruption probe that involves an improper relationship with a Baltimore towing company, sources said.
Baltimore Police initiated the investigation and brought in the FBI to avoid a conflict of interest, officials said. The officers were arrested today at the police academy after being called in under the guise that their firearms needed to be checked.
Multiple sources say the officers are mostly from the Northeast District and many of them are officers who were recruited years ago in a push to bring in Latino officers from Puerto Rico. That information could not immediately be confirmed.
A network of about a dozen towing companies, referred to as the “medallion towers,” have contracts with the city, some stretching back as many as three decades, to tow cars involved in accidents or illegally parked on public right-of-ways.
The city transportation department rejected a bid last week to contract with California-based Auto Return to manage the city’s tow lots, effectively ensuring a continuation of the medallion system. Auto Return, which handles towing in Baltimore County, would have required tow companies to reapply for subcontracts.
A two-year extension of the medallion contracts, which requires approval by Bealefeld and transportation director Khalil Zaied, had been slated to go before the city spending board today. The deal is expected to go before the five-member Board of Estimates next week.
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore and the FBI announced that a press conference will be held at 3 p.m. today to discuss the arrests.
-Justin Fenton and Julie Scharper