Two Baltimore police officers were indicted this week in separate cases, one an 11-year veteran accused of selling drugs while on duty; These accusations come as the department works to mend its reputation after the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal shook the public’s trust.
According to a grand jury indictment, officer Cejus Watson was scheduled to work at police headquarters in downtown Baltimore on September 29 but departed mid-shift and drove to a tattoo parlor in Baltimore County, where he sold marijuana.
Watson was suspended without pay after being previously charged with marijuana distribution in Baltimore County, a different judicial jurisdiction; that case, which relates to the same alleged narcotics trade, is still pending and has a trial date set for June.
At a news conference on Thursday morning, Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, who assumed his position as the city’s top prosecutor in January, announced the indictments and said they showed his dedication to holding law enforcement officials accountable for misbehavior.
In response to a 911 call in September, the second officer, Alexis Acosta, is accused of manslaughter and other crimes after hitting and killing a scooter rider.
Bates called Watson’s alleged acts “absolutely mind-boggling” and said the accusations raise concerns about the officers’ “integrity and ability to protect the citizens of Baltimore City.”
“When I learn that an officer may have been selling drugs while on duty, I can’t help but recall the infamous Gun Trace Task Force and the embarrassment it brought to our police force.
Over a dozen cops were convicted of crimes due to that corruption incident. It began with the finding that members of an elite plainclothes unit formed to remove illegal firearms from the streets had also robbed drug traffickers, drugged and shot unwary individuals, and assaulted unidentified citizens.
The agency is still subject to a federal consent decree that calls for several court-ordered reforms to eliminate unlawful police procedures.
The allegations against Watson, while worrisome, probably do not indicate more pervasive wrongdoing within the department, according to Bates.
“The consent decree, I believe, is working,” he remarked.
In 2021, Watson earned $86,000, based on available salary information. On Thursday, a request for comment was not immediately answered by the lawyer representing him.
Acosta hit Terry Harrell, 58, who was on an electric scooter when he was responding to a 911 call about a reported stabbing. Acosta can be seen on the crash video running a red light with his lights and sirens on.
He is charged with manslaughter as well as careless and dangerous driving.
On Thursday, it was unclear from online court records if a counsel was representing Acosta.
According to a Baltimore Police Department official, Acosta is still performing administrative duties.
Bates has already announced indictments of Baltimore police officers. But he also decided not to press charges against the cop who fatally shot a teen driver trying to flee last year.
This decision, which has come under fire from campaigners, contrasted with a state prosecutor’s investigative report examining the case.