BALTIMOREÂ (WJZ) â There are new revelations in the city police towing scandal. A whistleblower is speaking about her unsettling confrontation with an officer.
Mike Hellgren stays on the investigation.READ MORE: Maryland Zoo Reopens Oldest Section Of Facility As Walking Path
She says she’s amazed at how big this scandal is, but she still has faith in the police department.
More officers face suspension hearings in the sweeping federal corruption investigation that has rocked the department. Thirty-oneÂ officers have been suspended; 17 charged with illegally referring drivers involved in accidents to an unauthorized tower –Majestic, which would pay them cash in an illegal kickback scheme.
Paula Protani helped blow the lid off the scandal. She’s worked in the towing industry for decades and represents the towing companies licensed to do business with the city.
âWe were quite astounded that it was such a large network,â said Protani, Frankford Towing.
She remembers the day in 2009 when she says she saw Majestic towing a car they shouldn’t and confronted the officer.
â’Excuse me, sir,â I said, âDo you know you can’t use this unlicensed tow company?ââ Protani said.READ MORE: 'Justice Has Been Served,' Hogan Says Of Capital Gazette Shooter's Sentence
That’s when she said he had her arrested.
âHe overreacted so badly. It told me all I needed to know,â Protani.
And she made sure the commissioner knew it wasn’t right.
âWe brought it to his attention after I had been locked up,â Protani said. âAnd I believe that they did their due diligence. It’s very tough to look into your own people. It’s bittersweet. I’m happy something happened. But Iâm sad because it gives our industry a black eye. And the police department has so many good officers, men and women, in the rank and file. It’s just — nobody will look at that. They’ll just say police corruption, police corruption.â
One price of the scandal is that it has left police spread thin, struggling to fill beats in high-crime areas, but leaders say not rooting out corruption would have been more costly.
âPolice officers are supposed to be working for the police department, not the highest bidder,” said Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney.
Most of the officers involved serve the Northeast district. They are considered innocent until proven guilty in court.MORE NEWS: Maryland Weather: Hail & Damaging Winds Possible For Baltimore Area As Cold Front Moves Through
The FBI made extensive use of wire taps, monitoring the officers’ phone and text conversations leading to the criminal charges.