State Del. Jon S. Cardin called Baltimore's police commissioner this morning and apologized for using city police officers from the marine and helicopter units to stage a fake raid during which the lawmaker proposed marriage to his girlfriend.
"He offered an apology for putting the Baltimore Police Department in this kind of predicament and spotlight," Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told reporters after honoring a family that donated money and time to help spruce up the police academy in Pimlico.
Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat who issued a brief statement Monday and did not return calls for comment today, has also promised to repay the city for any expenses incurred Aug. 7. That night, he and a friend had officers board a boat, pretend to search it and find a box with a ring for his soon-to-be fiance.
The story has brought national attention to the Baltimore County representative, who also is an attorney, and embarrassed the Police Department as it deals with crime at the Inner Harbor and elsewhere and is trying to persuade citizens to donate money to help cash-strapped programs survive.
Bealefeld said an internal investigation is under way "to figure out exactly what occurred ... what resources were used, how they were used and who was involved." Department officials don't yet know how much money the stunt cost taxpayers, but officials have said the officers involved were on-duty and diverted from fighting crime.
The Police Department's chief spokesman has said no members of the command staff approved helping Cardin. Bealefeld added: "I don't know though whether this is beyond the scope of a couple of officers who used poor judgment."
He said that the incident shouldn't hurt efforts to raise money or leave questions about accountability. The commissioner said he's confident that people can "understand bad judgment or human error differently than they would understand systemic waste or fraud or corruption."
The commissioner also said that the department get requests daily for events and parties, such as community groups who want the helicopter to land or schools who want the police dogs to visit, or even help providing escorts for funerals. "The requests are numerous and it's important that we exercise good judgment in differentiating between those that we should be involved in and those that we shouldn't," he said.
Robert F. Cherry, the president of the city police union, said that just because the officers participated in the stunt did not mean that they were unavailable or unwilling to perform their job duties. If the officers are charged with internal infractions, Cherry said the union is ready to "aggressively defend" them.
"What's getting lost in this conversation is the fact that both units were working, and in the area and in service, ready to handle any 911 requests," Cherry said. "The incident in no way compromised safety or the commitment of those officers to the citizens of the city.
"It's not like they said, 'Let's shut down Foxtrot [the department helicopter] and the marine unit and jump on a boat and hang out for an hour.' They were in the area and in service."