Howard County Police Officers Criticized For ‘Inappropriate Behavior’ At Fundraiser

… Police chief says officers involved in Turf Valley incidents will be reprimanded … 

By Kellie Woodhouse
kwoodhouse@patuxent.com

Posted 10/25/10

Top county officials are promising to deal with the “unacceptable,” unruly behavior exhibited by some county police officers at a fundraising event at Turf Valley in Ellicott City Oct. 15.

In an e-mail sent to police officers and County Executive Kenneth Ulman after the event, Howard County Police Officers’ Association President Gregory Der criticized fellow officers for “Inappropriate behavior by a few that left a lasting impression” at the event.

People at the event complained about behavior that included excessive drinking, jumping in a lake and driving a golf cart into the Turf Valley pro shop.

In his e-mail, Der said civilian attendees and tournament sponsors called him and said they were “embarrassed to be associated with the police department.”

“I apologize for the lack of judgment that some of our members and golfers utilized,” he wrote.

Ulman called the behavior unacceptable.

“When you’re taking that oath to be a police officer, you’re pledging to live up to high standards,” he said in an interview this week.

Ulman said he is meeting soon with Police Chief William McMahon, who also criticized the questionable behavior, to discuss disciplinary measures for officers involved.

“We hold our police officers to a very high standard in Howard County,” Ulman said. “Any behavior that does not live up to that is disappointing and will be dealt with appropriately.”

The event, a golf tournament, auction and banquet attended by around 160 people, including Ulman and McMahon, was sponsored by the HCPOA and thrown to raise money for the families of fallen officers. During the tournament, golfers could partake from a beverage cart offering alcohol.

In an interview, Der said a few attendees and officers drank excessively.

“Anytime that you have alcohol anywhere, there’s that risk,” Der said. “I’ve had people call me and just say … ‘Wow. This happened. That happened.’”

Ulman, McMahon and Der said they were not aware of the indecencies until afterwards. They each said the behavior was inappropriate and that any officers responsible would be reprimanded.

According to county spokesperson Kevin Enright, an officer drove a golf cart into the pro shop, damaging both the structure and the cart. Enright said a civilian jumped in the lake.

Ulman said that when he arrived at the event after the golfing tournament, several people told him about the inappropriate behavior.

He said the behavior was not representative of most county police officers and that it detracted from the  desired message of the golf tournament.

“You can have one or two bad apples that spoil things for everyone,” Ulman said.

McMahon said that although he golfed in the tournament, he was unaware of the disorderly behavior until afterwards. He said the department was “working to address” the incidents.

McMahon said that the officers who attended the tournament were off-duty.

“Clearly that is not the expectations that we have of our police officers, regardless if they’re on-duty or off-duty,” he said.

McMahon said any officer who witnessed the indecencies should have addressed the inappropriate behavior.

Der said that in spite of the rowdy behavior, the golf tournament was “sold out” and was successful in raising money for the families of fallen officers. He said that in future events, he might eliminate or reduce the consumption of alcohol by attendees.

Columbia Flier

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