BALTIMORE (WJZ) — 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.
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-one 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.
“We were quite astounded that it was such a large network,” 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.
“’Excuse me, sir,’ I said, ‘Do you know you can’t use this unlicensed tow company?’” Protani said.
That’s when she said he had her arrested.
“He overreacted so badly. It told me all I needed to know,” Protani.
And she made sure the commissioner knew it wasn’t right.
“We brought it to his attention after I had been locked up,” Protani said. “And 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 I’m 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.”
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.
“Police 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.
The FBI made extensive use of wire taps, monitoring the officers’ phone and text conversations leading to the criminal charges.