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Officer’s gravesite adds to city’s cost

Baltimore’s spending board is expected to approve additional money to improve the gravesite of Police Officer William H. Torbit Jr., who was shot to death by four fellow officers in January.

Torbit, 33, was on active duty but in plainclothes when he was killed by “friendly fire” during a melee outside Club Select on Paca Street. The Board of Estimates drew scrutiny last April when it approved $45,000 — considered an unusually high amount — for expenses already incurred for Torbit’s funeral.

Now, the board is scheduled to vote on $6,299 in payments to Harrison Memorial Accessories LLC “for costs associated with the memorial services that were held on September 8, 2011 for William H. Torbit Jr.” The item is on the board’s agenda for its regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Baltimore Police spokesman Steve Sharkey said he was unaware of any police memorial event for Torbit on Sept. 8, but there might have been an event restricted to Torbit’s family.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Harrison Memorial owner Gwendolyn Harrison said the money was for the purchase and installation of a grave marker with pictures and a bench, along with the accompanying cemetery fees. Prior to September, Torbit’s grave did not have a marker, she said.

“The family came to us and asked for a marker and a bench,” Harrison said.

City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt confirmed that most of the new funds would pay for the bench and Torbit’s headstone.

“I think headstones take a while to manufacture and engrave,” she said.

External probe pending

When the board approved Torbit’s funeral costs in April, it also allocated $75,000 to pay for staff and expenses of a five-member commission to investigate Torbit’s shooting. (The commission members have volunteered their own services.) The results of the external investigation have not yet been released.

An internal police department review of the shooting was completed in August and forwarded to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, which declined to bring charges.