Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s a new hand at the helm of Baltimore’s embattled police academy. He started Monday with a comprehensive review of policies following the accidental shooting of a trainee by an academy instructor.
Derek Valcourt has more on the changes there and the latest on the health of the injured officer.
Amazingly, that officer is already out of the hospital. What happened to him sparked a massive investigation and major changes at the academy.
This kind of police cadet training–hands on, using training weapons–is temporarily on hold. Cadets are now confined to the classroom as state police audit the city’s police academy procedures after an apparent accidental shooting two weeks ago. That’s when sources tell WJZ one of the academy instructors mistakenly fired his real gun instead of a simulation gun at a trainee’s head during a training exercise at the site of the old Rosewood Psychiatric Hospital.
“This weapon that we carry on our hip, they are not toys,” said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.
An angered city police commissioner immediately appointed a new police academy commander and ordered a massive internal investigation into what he called ” a major procedural breakdown.”
“We will peel back that onion with the goal of never, ever having a situation like that happen here again,” said Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez.
But late last week, the newly appointed academy commander, Major Joe Smith, announced he’s leaving the department to accept an outside job.
“I have 25 years experience,” Smith said.
Instead, effective Monday, Lt. Col. Ross Buzzuro will lead the academy. Until now, he had been in charge of special operations units like the SWAT teams and police helicopters. His first order of business: a complete review of all police academy procedures.
“My goal is to make sure the academy is the safest environment for our officers and really bringing it to the national forefront to making it an elite and premier academy,” Buzzuro said.
But for now, it will likely be several weeks before cadets can resume training with firearms.
As for that injured trainee, he’s been moved from the hospital to rehab. We’re told the bullet just grazed his brain, so he’s lucky to be alive.
State police will not comment on the status of their criminal investigation into the shooting.