District Heights Police Chief on Leave After Investigation Into Hiring Practices, Record Keeping

The District Heights police chief is now on administrative leave pending an independent investigation of his hiring practices and record keeping. This comes on the heels of an I-Team report on a state audit which noted dozens of deficiencies within his department.

The city commission voted to place Chief Elliott Gibson Sr. on paid leave Friday after convening an emergency meeting to discuss issues raised in the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission audit first revealed by News4 earlier on Wednesday.

The audit found problems at the department including incomplete background checks and officers hired against a psychologist's recommendation. The chief has defended his department and he didn't go quietly Friday.

Only News4 was there to capture the fireworks inside the municipal building. City leaders say the chief refused to hand over his guns and leave the building, so they called in officers from Maryland State Police and Prince George’s County to help remove the police chief from his office. They say there were no threats made during this standoff-of-sorts, just lots of yelling.

District Heights Mayor Eddie Martin said he never expected to need all of those state and county officers to respond to his city's police department.

"When we notified him of it he wasn't a happy camper," Martin said. “Actually he surprised everybody by his actions … hollering and screaming."

The whole thing took about an hour, and eventually, Gibson left the building on his own, declining to comment when News4 asked about the action against him.

But on Saturday, the chief told News4 he was stunned by the development and said calling police was unnecessary.

The day started with a closed-door meeting to discuss police personnel issues. City leaders called the emergency meeting following two days of News4 reporting on the contents of the audit, which found deficiencies in the police department's hiring process and officer training records.

When contacted by News4 earlier this week, Gibson defended his hiring of two police officers who were "not recommended" after a psychologist's evaluation and a third officer who admitted using marijuana during the hiring process. All three of those issues were noted in the state report.

The News4 I-Team confirmed Maryland State Police are now investigating the department as well.

"The only way we can fix it is get to the bottom of it,” Martin said.

Gibson said all three have been good officers. The mayor said they'll be put on desk duty until the Training Commission reviews their cases.

“We want to get it straight. We want to fix this. That's exactly why the independent investigation is so important,” Martin said. “So we won't encounter this again.”

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