Cash seized by police being used to send lieutenant cleared in Freddie Gray’s death to Nashville conference

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Lt. Brian Rice, via Baltimore Police Department

Baltimore police Lt. Brian Rice, one of six city police officers charged and later cleared in the in-custody death of Freddie Gray, is headed to a policing conference in Nashville next week. The $1,905.58 trip will be funded not by local, state or federal funds or grants, but by assets seized by Baltimore police, according to city spending board documents.

The trip, detailed in this week’s Board of Estimates agenda, runs from Aug. 12-15. The 2018 International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Training Conference on Drugs, Alcohol and Impaired Driving includes sessions and workshops “that are designed to keep attendees up to date on the latest practice and science of impaired driving with a focus on drug impairment detection and recognition,” according to its website.

The registration fee is $575, and the city is covering about $460 in airfare plus another $870 in expenses, presumably for lodging and meals, for Rice.

Police spokesman T.J. Smith confirmed Rice is the same lieutenant who oversaw the arrest of Gray when he sustained a fatal spinal cord injury on April 12, 2015. Rice was later acquitted by a judge of involuntary manslaughter and other charges, and a panel of outside police officials cleared Rice, a 21-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, of 10 administrative charges in November 2017. He returned to work soon afterward.

Rice was also one of three officers who appeared at a conservative gala in fall of 2016 to accept a tribute from the right-leaning Media Research Center after they were cleared in Gray’s death.

Beyond his history with the Gray case, Rice was previously the target of a restraining order tied to an alleged confrontation involving alcohol, local journalist Amelia McDonell-Parry pointed out via Twitter. The Guardian reported in 2015 that the man who received the restraining order said in court documents that Rice was intoxicated at his house in June 2012 when he “threatened to kill” him.

The man alleged Rice “withdrew a black semi-automatic handgun” from the trunk of his car and shouted at him to come outside. Carroll County sheriff’s deputies and Westminster police eventually came out to diffuse the situation, documents said, and Rice was allowed to leave on foot after around 90 minutes.

City salary records indicate Rice made nearly $223,000 in gross pay—including more than $116,000 in back pay—in fiscal year 2017. (Rice was awarded the money as salary he missed while he was out on suspension.)

Smith said Wednesday that Rice is “a specialist and is advancing his specialization with the training” in Nashville. Using money from the department’s asset forfeiture fund for a conferences and associated travel is “an allowed expenditure,” he noted.

Per the U.S. Department of Justice, asset forfeiture “refers to the process of confiscating money and property that represent either proceeds of crimes, or property used in the commission of crimes.”

However, The Washington Post has detailed how seized funds are often taken from suspects who are not charged with crimes, and it can be excessively difficult for them to get their money and possessions back. The Sun this year reported BPD seized more than $10.3 million from 2013 through 2017 and only returned about $643,000.

Three other BPD employees are also headed to conferences paid for with seized cash. Edward Jackson, tapped by former police commissioner Darryl De Sousa in February as the department’s new inspector general, is set to attend a summer gathering of the Association of Inspectors General in New York from Aug. 12-18, at a cost of $3,034.25.

Linda Kolodner and Rickeisha Williams, who work in the department’s crime lab, are scheduled to attend a five-day course called “Essential Ridgeology Concepts,” described as an introduction to a “holistic approach to fingerprint examination,” in Minneapolis from Sept. 16-21 for $3,112.65.

The city’s five-member spending board approved the trip at its weekly meeting Wednesday morning.

This story has been updated. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the extra $116,000 Rice received in fiscal 2017 was for overtime. We regret the error.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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  1. That’s ridiculous.The Carroll County Sheriff confiscated all his firearms and dropped him off at the Nut Hut The BPD promoted him.

  2. The story is the story but why be so one-sided in the presentation, right down to the demonic photo. The guy was acquitted, like it or not, he can’t be held back or punished on the job. He deserves the same pay, opportunities and treatment as everyone else at his pay grade. There is also an implication, derived from the overall presentation and tone of the writing, that sending police to conferences to learn is somehow frivolous. I find that to be interesting as citizens and politicians alike call for better training of our local police forces. Impaired driving is a huge, dangerous issue – i for one am please do hear that BCPD is actively training its people to deal with the problem.
    It’s a shame the article could not take a tone more like: “Baltimore City Police use seized drug money to send officers for training to deal with impaired driving infractions.”

  3. Val Hane says:

    “It’s a shame the article could not take a tone more like: ‘Baltimore City Police use seized drug money to send officers for training to deal with impaired driving infractions'”

    …How do you know the money police took was drug money? How do you know it’s illegal proceeds at all?

    You don’t have to do anything wrong for the government to take your stuff and use it as they see fit. I think that is the bigger point of the article. Rice was just used as a vehicle to make the point due to his notoriety.

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