BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore Police lieutenant and police union leader has been suspended after an email he sent to union members surfaced, denigrating protesters as “thugs,” sources confirmed to WJZ.
In the email obtained by WJZ, which was sent to the entire police force from a departmental address, Lt. Victor Gearhart wrote of protesters “expect more bad behavior from the thugs of Baltimore.”
The emergence of that correspondence came just a day after protesters staged a demonstration outside the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, where a state conference of the Fraternal Order of Police was being held, linking hands and carrying signs calling for the disbandment of the union.
A dozen protesters, who refused to leave the premises and blocked access to a hotel escalator, were arrested on charges of trespassing.
“On the bright side, maybe they will stop killing each other while they are protesting us,” Gearhart wrote.
The lieutenant was suspended after commanding officers discovered the email Monday morning, sources told WJZ.
“The commissioner was absolutely outraged because it’s something that we’re constantly working on,” police spokesperson T.J. Smith told WJZ.
Smith said the email from Gearhart, a 33-year veteran with the agency and union vice president, is not representative of the department as a whole.
“This frustrated a number of people,” said Smith. “Calls have been coming in from officers about their outrage over this email.”
Police leaders weren’t the only ones troubled by the correspondence. Civil rights advocates and activists also took issue with it.
“What’s clear is that he does not see himself as being accountable to those people that he is sworn to serve and he is encouraging others to not feel accountable,” said Meredith Curtis with the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland.
Just last week, the Department of Justice held a new conference in Baltimore to release findings on their investigation, which found that Baltimore police officers routinely discriminate against blacks, repeatedly use excessive force and are not adequately held accountable for misconduct.
Following that report, Commissioner Kevin Davis assured the public that the report is a “turning point” and that the city’s police department “will be the model for this nation.”
Gearhart filed a lawsuit against the police department earlier this year after a series of controversial tweets resulted in his reassignment to overnight security duty.
The controversial email is now part of an internal investigation, according to police.
Attempts to reach the union for comment were not successful.
Gearhart declined comment and referred WJZ to his attorney, who had not returned calls seeking comment by Monday night.
Here’s the full text from the email:
“By now you have seen that the THUGS from Black Lives Matter and other similar groups have attempted to disrupt the State FOP Convention being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Well today as check-in day with activities spread over the next 3 days so expect more bad behavior from the Thugs of Baltimore. On the bright side maybe they will stop killing each other while they are protesting us.”