Whistle-blower police officer files lawsuit against Baltimore PD

A former Baltimore police officer who blew the whistle on misconduct is suing the agency and its commissioner, alleging that they failed to protect him from retaliation.

In August 2012, Detective Joseph Crystal told prosecutors he had observed fellow officers beating a man during an October 2011 drug arrest. According to Crystal, after his colleagues found out he was speaking out against police brutality, his work environment become hostile — culminating in him finding a rat on the windshield of his car outside his home one morning.

Even though Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts vowed to protect Crystal and investigate, Crystal resigned and has now filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging that the backlash within the department forced him to leave.

The suit alleges that the retaliation violated his free-speech rights and that the department broke state wage and hour laws. Crystal also alleges that other officers put his life in jeopardy by refusing to back him up on the streets. On one occasion in November 2012, no one from his unit responded to a call he put out over the radio asking for help during a foot chase with a suspect.

Luckily, Crystal wasn’t harmed in the incident, but he says he was later told by a detective, “Nobody wants to ride with you,” and was often taunted with remarks like, “[are you] having a cheese party? I know rats like cheese.”

Although Commissioner Batts has said an outside investigation of the intimidation that Crystal alleged is not complete, the the lawsuit states:

Despite the … Baltimore City Police Department promising a full investigation into plaintiff’s allegations, and Commissioner Batts promising he would get to the bottom of what happened, nothing has come of the investigation into what the department did and allowed to continue to happen to plaintiff for whistleblowing police misconduct.

The former officer contends that he was advised by a supervisor that the investigation was not genuine and the lack of any real answers — two years later — goes a long way in corroborating that assessment. His attorneys contend that Crystal left the department under duress because his career as a detective was being destroyed by underhanded attempts to discredit him.

The commissioner has declined to comment on the lawsuit.