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Detective Branded ‘Rat’ Testifies About Harassment And Intimidation On The Job

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore City Police detective says he was harassed at work, even finding a dead rat on his windshield. He believes it’s because he testified in court against two officers convicted in a corruption case.

Mike Hellgren has the significant developments.

Detective Joe Crystal’s lawyer says Baltimore City Police did not do the questioning. Rather, they brought in two lieutenants from Philadelphia, Pa. and two from Montgomery County, Md. They questioned Detective Crystal for about two hours.

For the first time, Baltimore City Police Detective Joe Crystal testified before police internal affairs about intimidation on the job. It comes just days after a WJZ investigation detailed his allegations that he’s being harassed and called a snitch after breaking a code of silence and testifying against fellow officers in a misconduct case.

That captured the attention and outrage of longtime city council member Carl Stokes, who’s demanding a full investigation.

“It sends a horrible message throughout the greater community–if you tell, we’re going to get you,” Stokes said. “It’s embarrassing to the greater majority of the officers as well as command.”

The detective’s wife opened up to WJZ.

“We live in fear, and it’s become part of our lives,” said Nicole Crystal.

“To my understanding, nothing’s really been done to investigate this until now,” said Crystal’s lawyer, Nicholas Panteleakis. “And I think that’s ludicrous.”

Only now is Detective Crystal answering questions about a disturbing incident in November 2012, where someone put a dead rat on his windshield. The intimidation didn’t end there. It’s detailed in his meticulous journal, which WJZ obtained.

“I think he’s in an absolutely dangerous situation. Things have happened where he’s called for backup and police officers didn’t come to back him up–I think three or four separate times,” said Panteleakis. “I don’t think it’s Commissioner Batts and anybody at the highest level, but I absolutely believe at least some of the mid to high level people want him gone.”

WJZ has repeatedly asked Commissioner Batts for an interview. This is the statement sent to WJZ: “We will not tolerate corruption, wrongdoing, or erosion of the public trust. Any officer, or group of officers found to be engaged in conduct that is illegal will be charged, and with the cooperation of the State’s Attorney’s Office, prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. We will not stop in our efforts to identify and fire officers whose behavior is repugnant to the citizens we serve, and to protect those who report them. We strongly encourage and support officers across the organization to feel safe and justified in reporting criminal behavior.”

Now it appears federal authorities are interested in looking into Crystal’s allegations.

“We’ve actually been reached out to by the FBI and they want to speak to us about the situation because they understand how serious this is,” Panteleakis said. “They want to deal with the corruption in the Baltimore City Police Department. That’s what they told us.”

“The public is demanding that there’s an investigation that goes on and on and is thorough enough and transparent enough until we find out who’s behind these things,” said Stokes.

Councilman Stokes says he does not believe the corruption involves a large number of officers.

Crystal’s lawyer says the outside lieutenants who questioned his client promise to interview others in the department and follow up. WJZ will keep pressing for answers on the investigation.

Crystal also met with Baltimore City’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and discussed more recent incidents of harassment.

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