- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mayor Martin O’Malley yesterday defended Police Commissioner Kevin Clark — who has stepped down pending an independent investigation of a domestic dispute with his fiancee — as “a good, honest and decent person,” saying the police official is “the best commissioner the city’s had in decades.”

But the mayor, whose previous appointee pleaded guilty to federal corruption and tax-fraud charges, said he felt frustrated that “we’re talking about this and not about the fact that violent crime is at its lowest level since 1970.”

Howard County Executive James Robey has agreed to authorize county police to independently investigate the dispute between Commissioner Clark and his fiancee.

Commissioner Clark has described the incident at his Baltimore home as a disagreement, but a Baltimore police officer reported hearing Commissioner Clark’s fiancee say she was assaulted, the mayor said.

Mr. O’Malley said Commissioner Clark agreed to go on voluntary paid leave during the investigation. The mayor said Baltimore police officials would forward information about the case to Howard County Police yesterday.

The mayor said he expected the county’s investigators to include the initial handling of the incident, in which the officers wrote their report in such a way as to keep the names of the parties involved anonymous.

“I’ve never seen it done that way before, I don’t know what it means,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Commissioner Clark said Monday night at a press conference with his fiancee, Blanca Gerena, that he has “done nothing wrong.”

“We had a disagreement like any other couple would have,” he said. “There was no assault in my residence.”

Commissioner Clark confirmed the incident occurred at his apartment in North Baltimore, where uniformed officers are stationed for protection.

On Monday, Commissioner Clark, 47, released a police report on the incident that states a “domestic dispute” occurred at 3:52 a.m. Saturday. It does not identify Commissioner Clark or his fiancee by name. Commissioner Clark said he was not sure “what the logic was” behind the omissions.

The report states a “black female approached officers … at an unspecified location within the northern district.” According to the report, the woman asked to use an officer’s phone. The officers asked whether she was OK, and she stated that she was the wife of Commissioner Clark.

The report refers to the commissioner as “a male known to officers and who will remain anonymous and known as ‘the male’ for the purpose of this report.”

The woman said she needed a ride. The officers asked Commissioner Clark whether he wanted them to “take her somewhere.” The police told her that Commissioner Clark had said she could “take the truck.”

“The female stated, ‘No, he assault me’ [in broken English],” the report said. “The officer did not observe any injuries to the female. They asked her what happened. The female said nothing more than, ‘I want to use the phone.’”

The woman then used an officer’s cell phone and called for a ride. After a few minutes, the report states, another woman arrived and picked her up.

A supervisor’s report was filed later Saturday with additional information, but it also did not mention Commissioner Clark’s name or address. That report said that the officers “kept the parties apart and attempted to ascertain what was happening.”

“At no time while I was at the undisclosed location did the original black female seek refuge or request assistance from me,” said the report by the unnamed supervisor.

Commissioner Clark said he and his fiancee argued over traveling to New York, where they used to live.

The two typically drive on Saturday mornings to New York, but Commissioner Clark said he needed to stay that weekend in Baltimore. He said his fiancee was upset because his work had kept him from going to New York in the past few months.

The commissioner said his fiancee told him that she did not tell police of an assault. Although she speaks Spanish, Commissioner Clark said, his fiancee also speaks clear English, as she did during a statement of support at the press conference.

“I support my husband, my fiance. Nothing happened,” she said. “That’s all I have to say right now.”

New police reports quote a friend of Commissioner Clark’s fiancee saying, “This is not the first time he has done this to her,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow said Tuesday that Commissioner Clark is confident the investigation will show there was no physical assault at his home.

Deputy Police Commissioner Kenneth Blackwell will run the department in Commissioner Clark’s absence.

Dan Fickus, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, said the incident warrants a follow-up criminal investigation.

“If it would have been anyone else, that individual would have been arrested,” Mr. Fickus said.

Commissioner Clark’s predecessor, Edward Norris, 43, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to misuse city police funds and filing a false federal income tax return. Prosecutors said Norris spent as much as $30,000 from the supplemental fund to pay for liquor, extramarital affairs, lavish meals and nights at fancy hotels.

Norris, was the city’s police commissioner from April 2000 to December 2002. Both men were recruited from the New York City Police Department.

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