Howard County Police

Veteran Officer Resigns Following Probe

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2006

A highly decorated Howard County police officer has resigned after a criminal investigation into allegations that he repeatedly "illegally entered" his wife's office building in the middle of the night, according to newly released police documents.

The investigation of Pfc. Patrick W. Eckley, which did not result in charges being filed, began after he was found at 3:30 a.m. Nov. 8 inside the Columbia office where his wife worked, a police report says.

Howard County State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone said criminal charges were not filed because "the evidence was just not there to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn't gain access through a door that was left unlocked or ajar."

The department has for months declined to comment about Eckley, who resigned effective March 15. The investigation -- conducted by the Criminal Investigations Bureau and the Internal Affairs Division -- is disclosed in the heavily redacted 15-page report released last week in response to a request by The Washington Post under the Maryland Public Information Act.

Eckley, a member of the K-9 unit and a 13-year veteran of the force, came under scrutiny in connection with a Jan. 6 accident that claimed the lives of two teenagers, police sources said. Eckley arrived at an intersection with a malfunctioning traffic light but departed without leaving any warning to motorists, police said.

Eckley, who was named National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the American Legion in 2004, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Duane A. Verderaime, did not return messages left at his office and on his cellphone.

The criminal investigator on the case, Sgt. Mark E. Verderaime, is the brother of Eckley's attorney. The sergeant declined comment through a department spokeswoman.

Sherry Llewellyn, a department spokeswoman, said she would not comment about the case because it relates to personnel matters.

The criminal investigation began after an employee in an office at 7070 Samuel Morse Dr. saw Eckley, who was on duty, and his dog approach the employee's desk at 3:30 a.m., according to a police report. Eckley said he had found a door ajar downstairs and was checking the building because of recent break-ins in the area, the report says, although only four commercial burglaries were reported in the area for most of 2005.

"Eckley stated he had not received an alarm for the building, but was providing pro-active police service," the Jan. 17 report says.

The investigation also looked into whether Eckley tried "to cover up his presence in the building," the report says. It notes that Eckley told the dispatch center of an "unsecured door/window" at the office only at 3:36 a.m. -- at least six minutes after he entered the building -- and then reported "services rendered" moments later.

The report says Eckley is alleged to have "illegally entered" the building on at least four occasions in 2005 and to have tried to access a computer.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company