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Two county deputies aren't fired, but Des Moines officer might be

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The Des Moines Police Department has finished an internal investigation into whether one of its officers, Barron Todd Baldwin, violated department policy last year after allegedly beating and kidnapping a drug informant in south King County, but chief Roger Baker hasn’t decided how the officer will be disciplined.

Baldwin, 37, filed an appeal with the chief after the internal probe returned a recommendation to terminate his employment –– the same punishment that two King County Sheriff Department deputies in the case escaped.

Baker said the Des Moines department is working with Baldwin’s attorney, and the chief expects to make a discipline decision by the end of this month.

Baldwin was part of a multi-jurisdiction street crime task force in south King County when he and deputies George Alvarez, 31, and James Keller, 32, were arrested and charged with fourth-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment of the drug informant. The officers were acquitted after a Superior Court jury was hung 8-4 in favor of acquittal. Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng decided not to seek a retrial.

An internal investigation by the Sheriff Department recommended Keller and Alvarez be fired. But on July 16, the deputies took their case before Sheriff Dave Reichert, who decided to suspend them, instead.

Reichert sustained findings that the deputies violated department policies through excessive or unnecessary use of force and authority. He suspended the two for a month without pay and said he is “confident that the discipline is appropriate.” Reichert said both deputies “will return to their duties and serve the citizens of King County.”

According to charging papers, the officers assaulted an uncooperative drug informant in an abandoned parking lot last October, then drove him to the Green River, where they threatened to kill him and dump his body. When the informant agreed to call them, the officers let him go without arresting him or reading him his rights.

Another officer who was present but didn’t participate reported the incident to Des Moines’ interim police chief, who alerted Reichert. Baker was the newly hired chief at that time but hadn’t started work yet.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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