The former Baltimore police officer helped take more than 1,000 drug dealers off city streets—and was the subject of plenty of death threats because of it.
During a routine narcotics enforcement operation, he sustained an injury that ended his career, the former officer wrote in his application with the Maryland State Police for a conceal-and-carry handgun permit.
“In the years following my separation from duty, I avoided Baltimore City in an effort to avoid any possible contact with any of the suspects whom I arrested,” he wrote.
In 2011, the officer, who said he lives in northern Baltimore County, took a job back in the city. It’s less than two miles from where he used to work.
“On numerous occasions … I have encountered individuals who immediately recognized me,” he wrote. “I do believe it is advisable that I be able to defend myself in the event that I were to encounter an armed drug dealer or associate from my days in law enforcement who sought to do me harm.”
That reason wasn’t good enough for state police, who denied the former officer’s application.
Their applications were denied under Maryland State Police Code 0060: Not providing a substantial reason.
In the last year, 2,095 people applied for Maryland conceal and carry permits , according to information released by the state police following a Maryland Public Information Act request from ABC2 News.
More than 220 of the applications were denied.
In Focus | An in depth look at why people were denied conceal-and-carry permits in Maryland. Thursday at 6
More than a dozen of those were from former law enforcement officers, including police officers, sheriff’s deputies, prison guards and corrections officers.
The denials are a legitimate concern, said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.
“From time to time, officers and their families have been targeted across the United States,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the denials are likely more a reflection of political will than anything. Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed some of the strictest gun laws in the country .
“Maryland just has a terrible reputation in terms of granting permits to people,” he said.
But John L. Grumbach, president of the Association of Baltimore County Retired Police, Inc., said his members haven’t had problems getting conceal-and-carry permits.
“There could be a million reasons for that,” Grumbach said of why some former officers might have their applications denied. “Every case is different.”
Mixed reviews of system
The federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act allows qualified current and retired officers to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of state and local laws.
In Maryland, a LEOSA card is issued by the state police only to former state troopers and deputy state fire marshals , as long as they are in good standing with the agency and meet mental health qualifications.
But other applicants may still be able to get a permit under the federal law.
Capt. Dalaine Brady, commander of the state police’s licensing division, said the agency may choose to deny an application from a retired officer from out of state, if they feel that officer isn’t likely to experience threats in Maryland.
That officer could still try to get a permit under LEOSA, and is encouraged to see if he or she is eligible, Brady said.
She said state police look for good and substantial reasons why applicants needs a state conceal-and-carry permit. Maryland law doesn't exempt law enforcement officers from that provision, she said, and they are held to the same standards as other residents.
Vincent DeMarco, president of the anti-gun violence group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said he believes the application process for to obtain a conceal-and-carry handgun works well.
“It’s protected Maryland for a long time,” DeMarco said.
Mike Pretl, an Eastern Shore resident and former chairman of the Handgun Permit Review Board, said about half of the applications for conceal-and-carry permits come from former police officers, prison guards and other ex-law enforcement personnel.
Pretl said in the nine years he sat on the board, it reversed 20 to 25 percent of all the appeals that came before it. But he couldn’t say how many of those appeals came from former officers.
If the board chose to deny a conceal-and-carry permit from a former officer, Pretl said, it’s probably because it’s been a long time since he or she left the force, and there hasn’t been any recent violent incidents. State police were fair in evaluating conceal-and-carry permit applications, he said.
“They weren’t trying to keep guns away from people,” he said.
Neil Kravitz, a Reisterstown-based gun dealer and licensed firearm instructor, feels otherwise.
Unless the officer has a conviction in his or her background, or failed to fill out paperwork properly, “there’s no real reason why the Maryland state police would deny a retired police officer
a conceal-and-carry permit,” he said.
“I can’t fathom a reason,” Kravitz said.
“I can’t whip cream”
In some of their applications, former officers said they had been threatened. That’s a pretty common scenario, Grumbach said.
“After a police officer retires, people feel like they are vulnerable,” said Grumbach, who retired in 1999. He had a conceal-and-carry permit for a while, but let it expire last year and has no plans to renew it.
A former officer with the Department of General Services police force spoke of encountering “numerous threats by those arrested in my 20 years of police work.” A former deputy sheriff said he resigned his position as a criminal detective in 1987 to take a job as a child abuse investigator with the Department of Social Services.
That applicant sent state police copies of newspaper stories of crimes he investigated as a detective, saying he was especially fearful of criminals who received long prison sentences and were expected to be released from prison in the future. He said he also receives threats from parents he investigates in his current job, and enclosed a police report detailing one incident.
“In the future I anticipate additional threats to my life as I continue to investigate child abuse allegations,” the application read.
Other applicants didn’t name specific incidents, but said they still are afraid of what might happen. A former corrections officer and heart disease sufferer said he fears it’s only a matter of time before he is attacked by a former inmate.
“I try to carry myself like I can protect myself, but that is only an image projection on my part,” the applicant wrote. “I can’t whip cream anymore.”
To Johnson, police officers have a compelling need to have conceal-and-carry permits—not only to protect themselves, but to protect the community from possible danger.