A Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy was charged with bribery, theft, and other offenses Thursday and suspended without pay after an internal agency investigation found that he had provided police information to a Baltimore towing and repossession company.
Deputy First Class Todd E. Johnson, 30, of the 400 block of Bonnett Street in Aberdeen was arrested Thursday by detectives with the Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, according to an agency release. Johnson is a seven-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who had been assigned as a patrol officer to the Southern Precinct, but was on temporary assignment at the Northern Precinct at the time of his arrest.
Johnson faces charges of bribery, theft of National Crime Information Center computer information, willfully distributing a valid NCIC code, and malfeasance in office.
In a statement, Sheriff Jesse Bane called the allegations against Johnson “disappointing and unfortunate.”
“Police are empowered with specific tools and resources to do their job effectively. Misuse of those resources is not only unethical, it is illegal,” he said in the statement. “If these allegations are true then this is an egregious breach of the public trust and can undermine the confidence the public has in law enforcement.”
Working off of a tip received in February by the agency’s Internal Affairs Unit, an investigation found that Johnson had a relationship with Final Notice Recovery and Location, a towing company located on the 4500 block of Curtis Avenue in Baltimore which repossesses vehicles for creditors.
According to the release, Johnson used an agency computer to search the National Crime Information Center database for information on vehicle owners not available to towing companies, and received money in return.
Once Johnson was identified as the subject of the tip in February, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said Johnson was moved to other duties which prevented him from “further commission of other crimes or accessing NCIC.” Hopkins said investigators have determined that Johnson’s activities stretched back at least one year, but that detectives were continuing efforts to retrieve additional data.
“There’s a lot of evidence, a lot of data on this,” Hopkins said.
Following his arrest, Sheriff’s Office detectives executed search and seizure warrants at Johnson’s home and at the towing business. Johnson was suspended without pay, and taken to the Harford County Detention Center for processing and was released on his own recognizance.
It was unclear whether any individuals with the towing company would face charges. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to handle the investigation, Hopkins said.
“We are large enough and have the resources within to conduct the investigation,” he said. “Keep in mind that we have layers of oversight to include the State’s Attorney, who has been involved with the case.”
Johnson is also among the defendants named in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit over the 2009 death of Dwight Madison at the Harford County Detention Center. According to the suit, Johnson was one of two deputies who initially arrested Madison for trespassing in a Bel Air neighborhood.
However, the suit does not allege that he played a part in an incident the next morning when Madison became comabtive with corrections officers, was TASERed, fell, and struck his head on the floor, causing injuries which led to his death.
Johnson is the third Sheriff’s Office deputy in recent years to face criminal charges. Maj. Mark Forwood, the head of the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division, was fired in November 2010 after two different arrests for theft from Home Depot, and was eventually sentenced to 18 months of home detention.
Deputy First Class Mark Jordan was suspended in July following charges of theft from a Wal-Mart in Shrewsbury, Pa. He was charged with an additional count of felony perjury in September after Pennsylvania State Police said he lied about the number of hours of community service he performed as part of a diversion program intended to satisfy the original theft charge. Jordan resigned from the agency on Dec. 20, Hopkins said.
Not Surprised says
I guess Bane wasn’t able to get this one held until after the election like the Forwood case. When you have an unethical person at the top, you get unethical behavior throughout.
j edgar says
Not Surprised, yeah. It is all Bane’s fault. Everything in the office that is or may be a problem is
Bane’s fault, yet anything good is due to the rank and file. Get over yourself.
@ j edgar,
I agree with you that regardless of who the Sheriff is, there are going to be issues, but N.S. is right on the money about Bane hiding the Forwood case from the public and when you do unethical things like that you promote unacceptable behavior instead of discourage it.
Jack Pott says
But you can have a documented integrity issue and get a job as a background investigator that was created for you by Sheriff Bane because you helped get him the unions endorsement. Maybe they will give this fine deputy a civilian position. The blame cant be put on the Sheriff solely, he is telling these morons to commit crimes. But when one looks around and sees the Sheriff and his commanders creating positions for people with integrity issues or just demoting them, that gives the image that its ok to lie. If its ok to lie its ok to cheat and steal. I dont want to work in any capacity with anyone that lies, cheats, or steal because it tarnishes the image of the badge I proudly wear everyday.
Hugh Jass says
As Jack Pott said, there are many many employees of the agency who have integrity issues. Not only are the problems swept under the rug, but the offenders are rewarded with employment! There is so much unscrupulous activity in the agency, it is mind-boggling. Yet Bane fired a corporal with 2 kids because the cpl had unresolved medical issues. And people wonder why members of the agency post on here saying morale has never been lower. Those who are honest and upstanding, who just want to do their jobs and be left alone are the ones getting screwed over by Bane and his cronies. House needs to be cleaned, starting at the top.
Do we need to wonder why armed robberies are out of control? Maybe this DB was getting a piece of the action as well, maybe others too.
Lenny Lane says
@Ed armed robberies are out of control because patrol deputies cant be proactive. Look at the patrol staffing levels in the past 8 years they are the same if not less(maybe dagger should file a freedom of information act request). The overtime on each shift is very high. Bane is about promote, promote, promote more, fill specialized units, who cares about patrol. The rob Peter to pay Paul approach isn’t working. Proactive is a term of the past in HCSO, just handle your calls and go home. Every time I thing morale is at its lowest it gets worse, I am embarrassed at what happens on a daily basis in the department that I love. On another note to my brothers and sisters stop doing stupid stuff while on and off duty. Its makes all of us look like morons and the public question our abilities, it needs to stop!
Does everyone know that every person, IN THE UNITED STATES, can access the dagger and read the comment section. So all of these fine upstanding citizens of this county can see what people are saying about the HCSO and laughing. Do ya think this is just for law abiding citizens. Kinda like the background checks for buying a weapon. CRIMINALS COULD CARE LESS ABOUT BACKGROUND CHECKS, BUT THE HCSO should care about airing issues on a public paper. Yes the first amendment allows us free speech, but it cost in the end.
I 2nd this opinion. Really guys and gals?
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Don Murray says
Congratulations HCSO. You did what had to be done and it sounds like a rock solid case.
Hugh Jass says
hmmmmmmm, airing issues publicly is the point. There are serious problems within the Sheriff’s Office and unless they are brought to the public’s attention, the issues will continue to be hidden. And I really don’t think people all across our great nation really care about a small police agency in a small county in a small state, so get over yourself.
small agency….yeah ok. But would you sit in a police station and talk about the agency in front of a person you just arrested. How about talk about what this officer did in front of two or three people, in cuffs, and tell how much the sheriff did this and didn’t do this. I am sure you wouldn’t. Just because it is a small paper, in a small county and a small police force in a small state….the badge speaks volumes and oh if you haven’t notice our governor is thinking of running for president from this small state. So I can get over myself, but there are people out there who think airing dirty laundry, on line, can be helpful. Has anyone every tried to be part of the solution.
Mike Welsh says
I take it you feel this kind of incident should be kept under wraps, along with all of the other misdeeds that occur in the Sheriff’s Office. After all, as long as the Sheriff is going to deal with the issue, what good purpose is served by the public becoming knowledgeable of the issues. Should dirty laundry never be aired in a public forum? Should the teachers never air their thoughts about the misdeeds in the school system? Should the parents never have aired their thoughts about the improper/inadequate management of the John Archer Principal, that led to her replacement? Is it just police agencies that you feel should be treated differently then all of the others because it reflects a negative light on the badge of Officers who are doing a great job?
Here’s a thought for you. I don’t look at all of the Deputies and see them in a negative light because of the actions of a few. Sheriff Bane has seemed to learn a lesson from the Major Mark Forwood incident where he tried to limit public awareness. When the Sheriff let his anger overcome him and imposed political revenge on the Sergeant who was number one on the Lieutenants promotion list received a public airing, along with a threatened lawsuit, the Sheriff reluctantly did the right thing and promoted him. In my opinion that would not have happened without the public being made aware of what kind of man the current Sheriff is. Again, in my opinion, the Sheriff has established a pattern of who he treats fairly and those he gives special deference. As a result of the Sheriffs previous actions, each incident will be looked at by the public in the light it deserves, and rightly so.
Any organization you will find people that follow the rules and people who don’t. Congratulations to the Sheriff’s office for following up on the tip and investigating the deputy. It would have been easier to sweep it under the rug, for the deputy to resign and forget about it. I commend the Sheriff for applying the rule of law to all, including his own staff when they mess up. The Sheriff is not responsible for the mistakes made by these deputies. Let’s support the Sheriff while he cleans up the house and not blame him because he investigates his own staff suspected of committing crimes. As far as other deputies that were let go, people will always have something to say about something and I am sure that the deputy can hire an attorney and sue for damages if he so feels that he was fired without cause.
I would agree with you if this Sheriff had a history of doing the right thing and as you say applying the rule of law to all, but as we have seen in several internal matters, he has not only swept it under the rug, he has rewarded the unethical and criminal behavior for his political well being. Look back at the Visnaw case or the Forwood case if you need examples of how his rules are applied less vigorously to his political supporters. I assume he didn’t bring enough votes with him to earn him a Bane pass.
Roman- I would agree if the Sheriff actually applied a rule to all but as we saw in the Forwood case, he doesn’t. He let taxpayer pay Forwoods salary for over a year yet he suspends this deputy without pay after the internal is complete. I do think if he did this, he should accept the consequences but the Sheriff doesn’t apply the same rule for all.
You said it. When the internal was complete. Forwood wasn’t complete
Mike Welsh says
Sheriff Bane, after seven months of asserting that he could not take action against Major Forwood because of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), and the fact that Forwood had not been found guilty in court of any wrongdoing, fired Major Forwood on November 30, 2011. Forwood had yet to be tried in any court at the time he was fired. The Sheriff’s firing of Major Forwood rendered everything he had asserted previously as simply untrue.
The Sheriff’s assertion that he could not take any action against Forwood, cost the taxpayers of Harford County approximately $63,000 is wages paid to Forwood while he sat at home in a suspended with pay status. The Sheriff knew all along that he could terminate Forwood as he was serving in the grade of Major and a member of the Sheriff’s Command Staff. As a Major, Forwood was not subject to the provisions of the LEOBR.
The Sheriff has a right to employe anyone he wishes. He does not have the right to mislead the public regarding his treatment of employees. It is an integrity issue, and in the Forwood incident, the Sheriff failed. He failed the citizens of Harford County, all the members of the HCSO, and most significantly the position he occupied, The Office of Sheriff.
What you mean to Ummmmm say is that Bane made sure the Forwood case didn’t get completed until after the election. The day after the election as it happened to be.
Mike Welsh says
Yes, its a fact. DFC Johnson was arrested and charged just as the article above states.
James Branston says
Will the victims of this scheme be able to sue for restitution? They should start a class action lawsuit. And while we’re at it, what about some poor chap who gets pulled over for a tag issue the day before a holiday, HCSO confiscates the vehicle, leaving the man and his family stranded? Then Carriers decides to tow said vehicle to their lot instead of to the man’s home, which is less than a mile from the pull-over site? Things that make you go Hmmm….
What’s that have to do with anything? If their vehicle is getting towed b/c of a tag issue then it’s usually because the insurance was suspended (b/c the owner didn’t pay it) or the MVA put a pick up order on the tags because the owner didn’t pay some sort of fee or fine they owed and didn’t get an extension.
Carriers (and any other tow company the county uses) will tow the vehicle directly to the person’s house (or anywhere else they want) IF they’re getting paid in cash on the spot which is generally somewhere between $150-$200. Of course that only applies if it’s getting towed at the owner’s request. If it’s getting towed because the tags are being taken then the owner has to get release form from the HCSO before the tow company can legally release the vehicle. If you don’t like it, then pay your insurance and/or MVA fees so you don’t get a tag pick up order flag put on your registration, don’t drive around with a suspended license, don’t drive drunk, don’t drive around with CDS in your car, etc. Basically, obey the law, pay the fees MD requires to be paid to register a vehicle in this state, and keep your insurance current.
Steven Richards says
I have been a member of the sheriff’s office for well over 20 years. It’s miserable working under this sheriff and his command staff. He does not care about his people. He only looks after the ones who can help him. And if you were to bad mouth anyone on the command staff watch out. The puplic needs to know the hiring practice of this man. He hires friends of his for civilian positions within the office. The colonel hired his son-in-law for a civilian position. His son-in-law was once a deputy who retired on medical disability. Ask yourself how one can retire as a deputy (disability) and then come back in a civilian position driving a company vehicle and going on the road to verify sex offenders. I guest if he get’s hurt he can retire again. How about these high paying civilian positions (records manager,computer support manager) putting in for overtime to do their job. These managers have subordinates under them. Why not offer them the overtime if needed. Most of the time it’s not needed they just do it to supplement their pay. There are also many ranking deputies that make sure they are guaranteed overtime each and ever pay for doing nothing but showing up. Someone needs to come in and clean house and to investigate the sheriff’s office. Morale sucks. Keep up the good work sheriff
Lenny Lane says
Steven R: Thank you for stating what most of us who work at the agency feel. Not sure about Gahler, but desperate times call for desperate measures. ANYONE, even Howard Walter, would be a relief from this Sheriff and his cronies. This place sucks the life out of you.
Um…Howard Walter? I don’t think I’d go quite that far…
Once worked there says
Every word the truth. The good guys were forced to retire to get away from sadistic BANE…..
by NO means do I excuse this deputies actions and believe that it should be investigated to the fullest….but even law enforcement officers can get desperate for other ways to make money when they haven’t seen a significant raise in 7 yrs!!
Then apply for a state trooper or FBI position if you want more pay. Abusing your authority to make extra money because you have not received a pay raise is not acceptable.
I agree….abusing authority is wrong…..my point was that I can “understand” how it could get to that point. ive seen criminals do things over the years to point where I can somewhat understand why they did what they did, even though what they did was still wrong. sometimes decent people do desperate things!!