Report On Night Club Shooting Criticizes Police, Slain Officer

Thursday, November 03, 2011 – Robert Lang
A five member panel appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake places blame on the Baltimore City Police, and a police officer killed by other officers, when they responded to a large fight outside a downtown night club earlier this year.

The panel released its findings today on the January 9 incident that killed Officer William Torbit and Sean Gamble.

The panel criticizes Torbit for not identifying himself as a police officer, and for not calling for backup when he responded to the large fight outside the night club.

The panel also criticizes the police department for not having a central command to oversee the incident, as well as for failing to take steps to prevent the fight from escalating.

The panel did find that the use of deadly force by Officer Torbit and four uniformed officers was justified.  In all, 42 shots were fired.

James Stewart, former Director of the National Institute for Justice chaired the panel which was made up of current and former law enforcement officials including former Maryland Attorney General Stephen Sachs.

Stewart told reporters that none of the four officers who fired shots during the incident, as well as a fifth officer and two commanders declined to answer questions from the panel, after they consulted with their attorneys.

Stewart said the lack of cooperation by these officers “left lots of gaps” in the final report.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein declined to prosecute any of the officers though civil suits have been filed by both the Torbit and Gamble families.

The four officers who fired the shots remain on administrative duties.  The two commanders and the fifth officer remain on the job, according to Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.

The panel made 33 recommendations to improve training in how officers respond to incidents like this.

Bealefeld and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake promise to implement all of them.

In August, police released video of the incident caught by Citiwatch cameras mounted on light poles in the area.

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