updated 9/13/2006 4:58:48 PM ET 2006-09-13T20:58:48

Dozens of criminal cases have been thrown out because of misconduct allegations against a specialized police unit, allegations that have led the department to reassign all seven of the unit’s members to desk jobs.

Baltimore police confirmed Wednesday that they are investigating the “Special Enforcement Team,” but would not describe the accusations that prompted the city’s second major police misconduct probe this year.

The unit’s sergeant and six officers were taken off the streets four weeks ago and placed on administrative duties because of misconduct allegations, police spokesman Matt Jablow said.

The team is “a discretionary unit that the chief of patrol can use to combat spikes in crime,” Jablow said. “They do a wide range of stuff — drug crimes, violent crimes, all kinds of stuff.”

The alleged misconduct relates to the officers’ truthfulness, so prosecutors have had to drop dozens of cases where the officers’ testimony was essential, said Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office. Most of the cases involve drug crimes, she said.

Cases are continuing to be evaluated, so it will be months before prosecutors know exactly how many are affected by the police investigation, Burns said.

The unit worked in the department’s Southeastern District.

In January, three police officers in the Southwestern District were indicted in a misconduct probe involving allegations that a woman was raped at a police station in exchange for her release. The officers in that case also were accused of planting evidence during their work, which focused on drug crime. They have pleaded not guilty.

More than 140 cases involving the Southwestern District officers have been dismissed, according to court records.

The January disclosure prompted Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm to pledge to “clean our house” by using a screening process for officers, including polygraphs and drug testing for officers who want to be assigned to special units.

In a similar case involving the Los Angeles Police Department, criminal charges were filed against officers from a Rampart Division unit formed to crack down on street gangs, and 23 officers were fired or suspended. The scandal led to 156 felony convictions being invalidated, and the city paid $70 million to settle civil rights lawsuits.

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