Questions remain as police trainee recovers

BALTIMORE - At the Board of Estimates meeting this morning, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake echoed about the only thing we've heard from any one official in this case.

"There's no acceptable explanation for why live rounds were at a training exercise and I was so angry I was almost speechless to think something like this could happen."

Currently, the Baltimore Police Department is under criminal investigation by the Maryland State Police.

Commissioner Anthony Batts also ordered a complete audit of its training practices, suspended leadership until Monday and any type of training in its academy indefinitely.

Counselors are helping officers cope with what happened yesterday, although none more than the officer who pulled the trigger.

But none of it answers anything; not why a class of roughly 50 trainees comprised of several agencies were at a non-Baltimore Police training facility in the first place, nor how a live round got squeezed off in the process.

But here's what we can tell you.

ABC2News Investigators were given exclusive access back in 2009 to document what then Commissioner Fred Bealefled called Diamond Standard Training.

The program no longer exists, but many of the practices do like the use of what is called simunitions.

Sources tell us the blue handguns that can only shoot a specific type of paint bullet are the only firearms used in active training.

 City police do use real ammunition, but only in a single file and fixed target gun range scenarios and the safety precautions used are strict.

But in most any other type of training, the blue simunition guns are exclusively used.

The guns are expensive training tools and were new to the department back then.

Sergeant Tim Palmer explained to us in 2009 why the department uses them.

"The simunition is a tactic that we use to raise the intensity of the training to give the officer the feeling in the position of actually having a projectile coming at them that may cause them harm.  It raises the intensity automatically."

And many officers we trained with back then testified to that, but at the Baltimore Police training facility off Harford Road, in order to check out a simunitions gun, officers must hand over their department issued firearm and any live ammo.

It was a process we saw in practice and sources say is still very much a strict standard operating procedure.

What is not standard is where Tuesday's training was held.

Many high level sources in the department told us today they never heard of training at the old state mental hospital in Owings Mills and perhaps that firearm check-in mechanism may not have been followed to a tee.

If true that may explain how an officer walked into a training scenario armed with a real gun.

A possible tragic lapse of discipline at an unregulated state site that sources say has Commissioner Batts as furious as he is curious.

"I understand.  I get it.  You guys want answers to those questions.  One of the things I want to make very clear is I have more questions than you have and it's gonna take time to get those answers to those questions because for me...it is unacceptable."

The State Department of  Health and Mental Hygiene owns the hospital in Owings Mills and while Baltimore Police cannot tell us why they were using it for training, DHMH couldn't tell us if they rented out the facility to police yesterday.

It is more than 26 hours later and they have yet to give us an answer.

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