BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A whistleblower cop who had a rat placed on his windshield will get a payout from Baltimore City. The former city detective alleged police brass failed to protect him from retaliation, making it impossible to stay on the job.
Investigator Mike Hellgren has details of the new agreement and what this case exposed.
It exposed a code of silence among officers and police are now undergoing training about their duty to report fellow officers’ bad behavior—but the city does not admit wrongdoing in the settlement approved Wednesday morning.
Detective Joe Crystal previously described his nightmare on the job: a whistleblower—shunned by fellow Baltimore City officers who wouldn’t give him backup and branded him a snitch and a rat. He even had a rat placed on the windshield of his car.
Crystal claimed in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that top managers in the Baltimore City police department, including then-Commissioner Anthony Batts, failed to shield him from retaliation, that the department essentially condoned a secret code of silence among officers.
He spoke to me about it all in 2014.
“It got to the point where there was no place for me to be in the department,” Crystal said.
His troubles started in 2011 on Prentiss Place in east Baltimore, when he saw two fellow officers assaulting a man and reported it to prosecutors.
“That badge didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t going to do the right thing,” he said.
Now the city has approved settling the lawsuit for just $42,000. They admit no wrongdoing.
“I’m not aware that we uncovered the identity of the people who did what Crystal said had been done to him but we tried very hard,” said City Solicitor George Nilson.
Police are now training officers about whistleblower protection and provided a copy of a policy put in place just days after WJZ aired that 2014 interview with Crystal.
“It basically does two things: it imposes a duty on people to report misconduct but also it provides protection to those employees,” said Baltimore Police Department Director of Strategic Development Jason Johnson.
City Solicitor Nilson says going to trial would have been more expensive than the settlement. As for the code of silence among officers?
“I think that’s a long-held belief and a long-held view. And I’m sure there is some of that in this and every other police department in America,” Nilson said.
Both Crystal and the city put out a joint settlement as part of the settlement. Crystal originally asked for $5 million.