Reporting Mike Hellgren
OWINGS Mills, Md. (WJZ) — A shake-up in the police department. There’s a new person in charge of training. It follows a devastating incident WJZ has been investigating where a trainee was shot in the forehead.
Mike Hellgren reports on the change in leadership.
The fallout is growing after a police officer was shot in the head during a training exercise last week. WJZ investigations have already revealed procedures were not followed and the exercise was not properly supervised.
Now the police commissioner has chosen a new director of training, Major Joseph Smith.
“It’s a decision the commissioner made. I support his work there and his actions subsequent to the incident,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Major Smith’s past jobs included police academy commander, firearms training instructor and internal affairs commander.
Smith was valedictorian of his police academy class. He’s been with the department for more than 25 years.
He has a tough job ahead, restoring confidence and performing a sweeping safety review.
As part of our investigation, WJZ has reported training officer William Scott Kern was frustrated his trainee kept raising his head when he should have remained hidden, so Kern put his weapon up to a glass window and fired. He thought he was using a fake weapon with simulator bullets. Instead, it was his real service weapon.
“The key is to learn from your mistakes. There was a breakdown in communication big time. We all agree with that. There was a cloud over City Hall and the police department,” said Council Vice President Edward Reisinger.
The commissioner explained the shake-up in training leadership saying, “As we investigate the facts of this horrific tragedy, it’s imperative that we put our best leaders in front to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
The trainee is still in the hospital right now. He’s undergone several surgeries and was in critical condition at last check.
All academy operations were halted last Tuesday after the shooting at the training facility in Owings Mills. Six officers were suspended.
Limited academic and classroom instruction will begin this Tuesday, but firearms training is still on hold.
The commissioner is expected to introduce Smith and outline his expectations Tuesday, including making sure all policies and procedures — specifically those centered around employee safety — are strictly adhered to.