The Maryland Attorney General’s Office needs a new leader for its investigations into police killings after the former division head resigned earlier this month.

Dana Mulhauser, the first leader of the attorney general’s Independent Investigations Division, left the agency Feb. 2 to take a job with the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, ending a 2 1/2-year tenure that saw Mulhauser clash with law enforcement officers as part of her duties.

“During her time with this office, she led the establishment of this new division with a sure hand, developing protocols and policies to ensure that police-involved incidents that result in the death of an individual are thoroughly investigated with fairness, independence, and transparency,” Thomas Lester, a spokesperson for the Independent Investigations Division, wrote in an email about Mulhauser’s departure. “She was also instrumental in legislative efforts to strengthen the Division’s mission.”

Mulhauser did not return phone messages seeking an interview. Everytown for Gun Safety did not return messages inquiring about her new role.

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A former Department of Justice attorney, Mulhauser’s career in the public sector spanned nearly two decades in which she prosecuted police and correctional officers for misconduct around the country. Mulhauser came to Maryland from St. Louis County, Missouri, where she reopened the investigation into the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown as part of her work leading a police integrity unit in the local prosecutor’s office; the investigation did not result in criminal charges for the officer who fatally shot Brown.

The Maryland General Assembly created the Independent Investigations Division in 2021 as part of a larger package of police-accountability focused reforms. When Mulhauser’s hiring was announced in July 2021, she called the appointment an honor.

“I have devoted my career to investigating excessive-force cases because I believe that they are among the most crucial tests of our values and commitments to each other,” Mulhauser said in a news release. “I am honored to join the effort to put Maryland’s new police reforms into practice, and I look forward to helping build a statewide system that will examine fatal incidents with rigor and impartiality.”

Mulhauser’s division looked into 42 police-involved deaths during her tenure, with one case resulting in a prosecution. Baltimore Police Officer Alexis Acosta, who ran a red light and killed a man riding a scooter in 2022, pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter last month. The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office prosecuted Acosta because the incident took place before the attorney general’s office had the power to do so.

The relationship between Mulhauser’s unit and local officials reached its nadir in April 2022 when Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot and killed 53-year-old John Fauver. Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who had made clear he did not think an outside investigation was necessary, refused to share evidence in the case with attorney general’s office staff. The attorney general’s office sued over the restrictions and a court ultimately sided with the Independent Investigations Division. However, the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office announced it would not charge any of the deputies in that shooting before Mulhauser had completed her investigation.

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“We knew it was going to be a problem in Harford County because the sheriff was so opposed to the legislation and was vocal about his view that it was wrong,” Former Attorney General Brian Frosh said. “Dana tried to work it out.”

Views of Mulhauser’s work in Maryland are split. Frosh, who hired her, lauded her work in establishing the Independent Investigations Division and called her a “rock star.”

“She is a brilliant lawyer and she had exactly the experience that was necessary to do this job and we were really lucky to entice her to Maryland,” Frosh said.

Maryland Fraternal Order of Police President Clyde Boatwright, who opposes outside investigations of police killings, had a less-than-favorable view of Mulhauser’s tenure and said her work was politically motivated.

“The fact she came from Ferguson, Missouri — it just seemed like she was chasing police accountability jobs and was not necessarily here for the betterment of community members and police officers,” Boatwright said.

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“We felt strongly she would base her success or fail rate by how many police officers she could prosecute,” he added.

The attorney general’s office lobbied lawmakers for the ability to prosecute police officers for two years but did not gain the ability to do so until Oct. 1, four months before Mulhauser left the agency. She and Frosh, and later his successor Attorney General Anthony Brown, told lawmakers in Annapolis that investigating without the ability to prosecute defeated the purpose. Maryland law already required the attorney general’s office to investigate every police-caused death.

In addition to police unions, 23 of the 24 elected state’s attorneys in Maryland opposed the law change last year, which Brown and Mulhauser said would increase the public’s trust that police killings were investigated with the same level of integrity as other crimes. The Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association declined to comment on Mulhauser’s departure.

Mulhauser has always said her goal was an objective investigation into potential police misconduct. In a 2019 interview with a St. Louis TV station, Mulhauser said her job wasn’t about singling out cops.

“It is about finding a way and setting up a structure so that those folks can be investigated with some amount of distance, dispassion, and objectivity in a way that hopefully anybody else is,” she said then.

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Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of John Fauver’s last name.

Lee O. Sanderlin is an Enterprise Reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Before joining The Banner, he worked at The Baltimore Sun as a reporter covering a wide array of topics, including stories about abusive politicians, sexual abuse, gun violence and legislative issues. 

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