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Safety complaints repeatedly ignored by state before Maryland parole officer's murder, union says

Co-workers say murder of Maryland parole officer was "preventable"
Co-workers say murder of Maryland parole officer was "preventable" 03:19

BALTIMORE -- Colleagues of a Maryland parole officer who was killed in the line of duty last month are demanding the state make changes to keep them safe on the job. 

They also want an outside investigation into the murder and say their complaints about the alleged killer and safety lapses within Maryland's parole system repeatedly fell on deaf ears. 

Davis Martinez worked for the state for six years and is the first parole agent killed in the line of duty GoFundMe

While the state has already shaken up top parole and probation leadership, those protesting in Baltimore County Tuesday said that is not enough. 

"They have never given us a damn thing," said Patrick Moran, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "What we have earned and what we deserve is to be safe at work—to be able to come home in the same condition that we came to work."

Several co-workers claim Department of Public Safety managers ignored their concerns over safety for 14 months.

"Let's be clear, this tragedy was preventable," Moran said. "Absolutely preventable. For more than a year, the members of our union brought up health and safety concerns in meeting after meeting only to be met with dismissive attitudes from the Department of Public Safety and parole and probation leadership. Sadly, it took this tragedy for them to finally realize that you were speaking the truth all along."

Court documents reveal new details of the murder  

Charging documents WJZ obtained show Martinez was found in a fetal position and had been stabbed multiple times while conducting a required check-in at his alleged killer's apartment in Chevy Chase

Police said Emanuel Sewell, a convicted sex offender, wrapped Martinez body in plastic bags and shoved him under a bed, then threw the victim's phone in a dumpster before fleeing. Sewell was arrested in West Virginia and is now being held without bond in Montgomery County. 

History of warning signs 

AFSCME said other agents previously raised concerns about Sewell.

"There were red flags around this offender, and I met one of the former agents who dealt with this offender last week, and she had it documented as did other agents prior to her," Moran said. "The fact that again the agency refused to sit down with us and discuss these concerns with our members…means there has to be greater consequences than the ones we've seen."

The union is calling for a third-party investigation into what led to Martinez's murder and for home visits to remain virtual until they can negotiate a new agreement. 

They want a review of all equipment and safety protocols. 

"We are demanding safe staffing levels and that the agency stop cutting corners when it comes to staffing so that we have enough staff to conduct home visits in pairs," said Rayneika Robinson, who represents parole agents for AFSCME.

State responds to concerns

The Department of Public Safety told WJZ they are conducting an internal investigation into Martinez death and examining all policies, equipment and the culture of the agency. DPS wrote, "The Department believes that nothing is more important than the safety of its personnel…"

The union also said all office parolee check-in visits should be virtual until security issues have been addressed. 

They previously called for Secretary of Public Safety Carolyn Scruggs to step down but today said any decision on her fate should be left up to the governor. 

"That's the governor's decision, and he has to make that decision. He has made some adjustments. We still think there have to be other adjustments within the Department of Public Safety," Moran said. "I think that's obvious since our members reached out months after month the last 14 months saying there are problems only to be dismissed with, 'We're not going to talk about that's or 'We don't have any problems' or 'We'll get back to you.' Well, they got back to us too late because someone paid the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate price, and that's Davis Martinez. He's never going to go see his family again. He's never going to see his coworkers again and he's never going to serve the state of Maryland again, and I hope they remember that."

AFSCME members were handed buttons with a panda the victim once drew for a co-worker to remember his life CBS News Baltimore

Full Statement from Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services :

"The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of its staff and the community and is committed to working closely with the Union to bring about meaningful change. In the wake of the recent death of Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) Agent Davis Martinez, the Department has taken immediate and decisive action to reassess and enhance our current policies and practices." 

"This reassessment includes examining equipment and policies that affect every element of work done by Parole and Probation employees."

"This reassessment continues to focus on:

  • Home visits, and specifically a process for identifying potentially high-risk clients, to include discussion of assigning an additional agent to those clients
  • Front lobby and security presence and the needs of all field offices statewide. 
  • A complete equipment assessment and upgrading as necessary for safety equipment such as mace and vests
  • Examination of policies and procedures related to training, both entry-level and advanced
  • Examining all policies to ensure standardization throughout the Division
  • Efforts to increase and improve communication in field offices, with management, and with the union
  • A study of the culture within Parole and Probation to determine whether further changes and leadership moves should be made."

"In addition, the Department's own Intelligence and Investigative Division has already begun a thorough investigation of the administrative practices leading up to the death of Agent Martinez."

"The Department believes that nothing is more important than the safety of its personnel, who every day perform an incredible volume of work in the community, where unlike in correctional facilities, their clients are free to move about without direct around-the-clock supervision." 

"Under Secretary Scruggs' leadership, the Department is steadfast in its commitment to improving safety measures and operational protocols. We will continue to work tirelessly to safeguard our agents and the community while ensuring that our practices reflect the highest safety and security standards."

List of AFSCME union demands 

Local 3661 is demanding the following:

  • Home visits be kept fully virtual until a new home visit policy is negotiated with the union.
  • Office visits become virtual until security has been addressed for those working in offices outside of courthouse settings. All customer-facing state offices lack proper office security protocols and staffing.
  • A thorough review of current DPP procedures, equipment, and worksites. 
  • A review of the safety and security of all P&P personnel.
  • DPSCS must hire a third party to do an analysis of all policies and procedures related to personnel safety and improve and standardize operational policies. 
  • Transparency and input into this review.
  • Equipped with the tools, trainings, and proper safety protocols that will allow agents to safely avoid and/or remove themselves from dangerous environments.
  • Clear and robust emergency procedures in place to rapidly address crisis situations.
  • Proper protective equipment, including properly fitted bulletproof vests and non-expired mace/pepper spray. 
  • DPSCS must conduct an immediate inventory of protective equipment to ensure all staff have the proper resources to do their jobs.
  • Safe staffing levels and more sustainable caseloads and that the agency stop cutting corners when it comes to staffing, so that there is enough staff to conduct home visits in pairs.
  • Access to mental health services that can assist us with processing the ongoing dangers they face as agents.
  • A third-party investigation into the problems that led to the killing of Agent Davis Martinez.
  • A stronger labor management committee meeting system and regular meetings where issues and concerns brought up in meetings are properly addressed and elevated to the Governor's office and action items are followed through on.
  • A true seat at the table to develop policies, procedures and practices that keep them safe.
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