A Hyattsville city people trial board found yesterday that the town's former police chief had committed immoral, unethical and improper acts in his dealings with three female city employees.
John Downs, who announced his resignation as city police chief Friday, would have faced "administrative punishment" if he had remained a Hyattsville police officer as a result of the findings, according to City Attorney Lance Billingsley.
In addition, Billingsley said, he has been instructed by the Hyattsville mayor and Council to turn over to the county state's attorney any evidence of possible criminal activity allegedly involving the former police chief.
"This ruling should let the people of Hyattsville know that, even if you're the police chief, you are not above the law," said City Manager Robert T. Johnson.
Yesterday's decision by the police trial board in Hyattsville followed more than 16 hours of testimony on Dec. 7. Downs, now a patrolman for the Mount Rainier Police Department, could not be reached for comment.
Downs originally had been accused of 12 separate instances of misconduct. The board found yesterday that he had committed five, including two counts of conduct unbecoming a police officer and two counts stemming from the alleged alteration of an employee's time records.
In addition, Downs was found by the board to have committed an "immoral and unethical" act in which he allegedly fondled a part-time police dispatcher without her consent.
City officials said the two findings of improper conduct stemmed from Down's alleged relationship with another part-time police dispatcher. That dispatcher has subsequently been dismissed.
The two other findings of misconduct were based on allegations that downs instructed the city's animal warden to alter her time records allegedly to conceal the fact that, while she was supposed to be on duty, she was babysitting the second police dispatcher's two children.
"Many people were skeptical that we would go foward with this case. Many thought we would not spend the money - but we did," said Johnson. He said the investigation cost the city approximately $17,500.
Downs, who was placed on administrative leave prior to his resignation, came to the Hyattsville department in 1971 after serving about 10 years on the University of Maryland Police Department.
Throughout the hearing, Downs denied being involved in any misconduct.
City Attorney Billingsley said yesterday he had not announced the new vacancy for the police chief's job because he was awaiting the ruling the police trial board.