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FOP rescinds Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer's associate membership

August 06, 2008|By By ERIN JULIUS and DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A local Fraternal Order of Police chapter last month rescinded Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer's associate membership, and on Tuesday its members visited the Hagerstown Police Department to show support for Officer Christopher Watt, who stopped Cromer for an alleged traffic violation in May.

The FOP action was taken based in part on a June 19 story in The Herald-Mail in which Cromer was quoted as referring to Watt as a "liar," according to a copy of a letter sent to Cromer by Dennis Mummert, president of the FOP Thomas Pangborn Lodge No. 88.

Mummert on Tuesday read the letter to Watt and other officers assembled at the Hagerstown Police Department.

The lodge members on July 16 voted unanimously to rescind Cromer's membership, Mummert said in his letter to the councilwoman.

Cromer, who is a local attorney, had held an associate membership. Many local attorneys and judges hold such memberships, lodge members said Tuesday.

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When asked about the FOP action, Cromer told a reporter before Tuesday's City Council work session, "Don't talk to me. I will never say anything to you ever again. Don't talk to me."

According to a supplement to a Hagerstown police report regarding the May 26 traffic stop near City Park, Cromer said, "Do you know who I am?" after Watt pulled her over and asked for her registration and driver's license.

Watt also alleged in the supplement that Cromer used a sarcastic tone throughout the stop.

Watt gave Cromer a warning instead of a ticket.

In an interview following the incident, Cromer called Watt a liar, saying she never said, "Do you know who I am?" She said she asked instead "You know who I am, right," not in an attempt to gain special treatment, but to avoid searching her luggage for her license if Watt already know her identity.

She also was quoted as saying the police department had a vendetta against her because she questioned the validity of a program under which some city employees are permitted to drive city-owned vehicles to and from work.

The Washington County Ethics Commission was asked by a member of the public to investigate the incident.

The ethics panel, in a decision made public July 31, said Cromer did not act unethically during the traffic stop. The commission said, however, that although her actions were not unethical, Cromer acted inappropriately during the traffic stop.

Bob Frick, treasurer for the lodge and retired Hagerstown police officer with 29 years of service, on Tuesday said Cromer never showed proof of a vendetta or that Watt lied.

Accusing a police officer of lying could hurt the officer's testimony in court, Frick said.

"We have to support our own," he said.

In a meeting with Watt and other Hagerstown police officers Tuesday, Mummert said the lodge supports Watt wholeheartedly.

"We hope he feels the membership stands behind him," Mummert said.

Mummert said that in his three years as president, the FOP has not voted to rescind anyone else's membership.

"We're professionals. We expect everybody in our organization to be professional and act like professionals," said Ben Ryland, a retired Hagerstown police officer with more than 28 years of service.

Cromer's husband, Steven Cromer, who is a retired Hagerstown police officer, is a member of FOP Lodge No. 88. He was not present for the vote to rescind his wife's membership, board members said Tuesday.

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