An investigation into allegations of domestic violence and child abuse against Bel Air Police Department Chief Charles Moore has been referred to the Baltimore County Police Department due to potential conflicts of interest, while Bel Air’s police union rejected town officials’ comments about the matter and called for an independent investigation.
The town announced Wednesday it had placed Moore on administrative leave after he was served with a temporary protective order a day earlier placed by his wife, from whom he is separated, alleging that Moore was involved in a physical altercation with her and their teenage son on Dec. 13.
Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cristie Hopkins said Friday that the agency, which has jurisdiction over the locations where the alleged incidents involving Moore took place, had referred the investigation to the Baltimore County Police Department and Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office.
While allegations involving child abuse would usually be investigated by the Harford County Child Advocacy Center, in his role as Bel Air police chief, Moore sits on the center’s Board of Directors.
“This creates an obvious conflict of interest,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Dagger. “As such, we have consulted with and requested assistance from the Baltimore County Police Department and Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office to complete the necessary investigations. We have not been requested to assist with any Internal Investigation the Bel Air Police Department may be conducting.”
Hopkins said standard practices in such an investigation would be to gather evidence, interview involved parties, and to present any findings to the State’s Attorney’s Office for possible charges. A concurrent social services investigation may also be possible, she added.
In comments to The Aegis published Friday, Bel Air Town Administrator Jesse Bane said the town would not conduct its own investigation of Moore due to the allegations against him occurring outside its department’s jurisdiction.
“This is nothing unusual,” Bane told the newspaper, “because the order has been issued does not mean the allegations are true.”
However, Bane’s comments were strongly countered in a letter published in the early morning hours Saturday by the Bel Air Police Association IUPA Local #229, the union representing the department’s rank and file officers.
“A police officer being accused of domestic violence and being the respondent of a protective order is highly unusual,” the union wrote. “There is nothing normal about this.”
The union also rejected Bane’s basis for not conducting an investigation due to jurisdictional boundaries.
“This is not a standard that has been applied to officers in the past,” the union wrote. “Whenever a police office is accused of wrongdoing they are subject to an investigation regardless of where the incident occurred. Allegations of misconduct should be investigated thoroughly regardless of jurisdictional boundaries or rank.”
“In the interest of fairness and public trust, an independent investigation into the allegations against Chief Moore must be conducted.”
As Harford Couny Sheriff from 2006 to 2014, Bane previously sat on the the Harford County Child Advocacy Center board; he is a past board member of the county’s Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center, or SARC.
A hearing for a final protective order is scheduled for Tuesday. Under the temporary protective order, Moore is prohibited from threatening, abusing, contacting, or visiting either his wife or his teenage son. Pursuant to Maryland law, Moore was required to surrender all firearms and ammunition; Hopkins said the Sheriff’s Office claimed a total of 24 firearms from Moore, including his duty weapon.
During Moore’s absence, Deputy Chief of Police Richard J. Peschek is serving as Acting Chief of Police.