Fraternization Policy Not Unconstitutional

Meredith Cross was employed as a police officer in the Baltimore City Police Department from 2004 to 2010. On July 7, 2009, she received a “Notification of Complaint to Accused,” in which it was alleged that she had “been making personal contacts with person(s) of questionable character.” On March 9, 2010, the Department officially charged her with four counts of violating its General Orders. All four charges were directly related to Cross’s marriage to Carlito Cabana, a convicted murderer and a member of Dead Man, Inc., a prison gang.

When Cross was fired, she filed an appeal in court, contending that the Department’s fraternization policy was unconstitutional. The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the policy.

The Policy itself reads: “Members of the Department shall refrain from making personal contacts with persons of questionable character, or visiting places where suspected violations of the law may be occurring, unless necessary to do so in the performance of their duty.” Cross argued that the Department’s application of this General Order interferes with her federal constitutional rights to intimate association and to marry.

The Court held that “because the right to intimate association is an intrinsic personal liberty, the Constitution undoubtedly imposes constraints on the State’s power to control the selection of one’s spouse that would not apply to regulations affecting the choice of one’s fellow employees. However, indirect intrusions on that right may be subject to reasonable regulation.

“Here, the Department neither prevented Cross from marrying Cabana, nor forced her to obtain a divorce after learning about the marriage. We also note that during the investigation of the marriage, she was allowed to visit Cabana in prison, call him on the phone, and give him money. In fact, throughout her employment with the Department, Cross maintained her relationship with Cabana, and, consequently, her right to intimate association and her right to marry were not violated.

“Here, the General Order is rationally related to the Department’s goal of furthering public trust of the police in the community, maintaining discipline within the ranks of its force, and ensuring the safety of its employees. Based on our examination of the facts at hand as well as analogous cases in other jurisdictions, we hold that the Department’s interest is clearly legitimate, and the application of the General Order to the factors of this case is a rational means for advancing this interest.”

Cross v. Baltimore City Police Department, 2013 WL 4719089 (Md. App. 2013).