BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Office of the Inspector General has found the Baltimore Police Department Marine Unit’s supervisor misused City resources to salvage an abandoned boat in the Inner Harbor.

OIG determined a combined loss to the City for this operation to be $30,142.25.

Courtesy: Office of the Inspector General

The investigation found the Marine Unit was lacking the necessary equipment and skills to efficiently conduct the operation and was done in an unsafe manner that could have harmed officers, civilian personnel and City property.

In December 2016, the Marine Unit began removing a 32′ boat from the Inner Harbor near Thames Street, which took three months- spanning several days throughout. By the end of the removal, it was reduced to a pile of wood and fiberglass, estimated at $11,700.

Although the management within BPD was reportedly aware of a program that removes abandoned boats at no cost to the local jurisdiction- they never used it.

The OIG said BPD personnel gave contradictory statements to senior BPD management, BPD internal affairs, and OIG investigators and could not determine who gave the Marine Unit authority to remove the boat.

Efforts to remove it included attaching a tow line from a smaller BPD boat to the salvage boat and trying to dislodge it, attaching a tow line from a larger BPD boat to the salvage boat and attempting to dislodge it, then using a BPD utility truck and attaching a tow line from the truck onshore to the salvage boat and attempting to dislodge it.

When those attempts failed, Marine Unit personnel made two separate inquiries with BPD Bomb Squad officers requesting the use of detonation cord to wrap around the impaled pilings. The Bomb Squad officers denied the requests.

Investigators found that proper procedures were not followed to buy an underwater chainsaw that cost approximately $900 to try to salvage the boat, which a BPD officer bought on a personal credit card.

The officer then told the commander that he was borrowing the chainsaw while a requisition was processed through BPD’s fiscal department- when he had in fact just bought it and then was reimbursed once the requisition had been approved.

Ultimately, the boat was dislodged and towed by a private company to the Boston Street Pier for removal. It cost the City $7,367.

However, DNR representatives confirmed the vessel in question could have been removed under the abandoned boat program, at no cost to the City.

The investigation came to a head when concerned Baltimore City residents gave the OIG video and photos taken during the course of the salvage operation.

OIG consulted with experts who said the methods used by BPD personnel were ineffective and dangerous.

In an official response to OIG requests for information, BPD personnel wrote there was no overtime or compensatory time paid for officers involved in the boat salvage operation.

A review of BPD records revealed at least three occasions where overtime/compensatory time was paid to officers as part of the salvage operation.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the matter was forwarded to the Public Integrity  Bureau for disciplinary action and wrote the following changes have been directed:

  • Management personnel visit the Marine Unit facility multiple times per week to inspect operations
  • The Marine Unit supervisor is responsible for submitting a weekly calendar to management which outlines events for which the Marine Unit participates
  • All personnel assigned to the Marine Unit will have the necessary skills and training to properly fulfill the Unit’s responsibilities.

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