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Keeping undercover cops safe from friendly fire

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Posted at 11:43 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 23:43:01-04

The death of Det. Jacai Colson in Prince George's County is bringing back painful memories for a family here in Baltimore.

Baltimore City police officer William Torbit was shot and killed by fellow officers early on the morning of January 9, 2011 outside the Select Lounge.

Moments after the gunfire, surveillance video shows a police officer kneeling next to Ofc. Torbit, who had responded to help with crowd control after the club closed.

“I was shocked, displaced, awed. Because I know that my brother always, always watched his surroundings and made sure that at the end of the day he would return home,” said Chancellor Torbit, the late officer's brother.

He is 10 years younger, and he says William Torbit made a big impact on his life.

“He played that big brother role of making sure I was stepping in and doing my part,” Chancellor Torbit said.

After the shooting, the Baltimore City Police Department implemented a number of changes, including more training for officers, and plain-clothes officers were no longer allowed to take action.

“The biggest change is that officers that are working the street taking enforcement action will be in identifiable police attire,” said Anthony Guglielmi, the city police spokesman at the time.

And then this week in Prince George's County, Det. Colson was shot and killed during an exchange of gun fire between officers and a suicidal suspect.

See also: Death of Prince George's County officer result of friendly fire, chief says

On Wednesday investigators confirmed another officer inadvertently targeted and then shot Colson.

Now, Chancellor Torbit is running for mayor of Baltimore City -- as a Republican.

He says he wishes the recommendations made after his brother's death could have been implemented statewide.  And he's concerned the city's police department might be slipping back into old habits.

“I see plainclothes officers, you know, dressed the way my brother was dressed before 2011,” he said.

And while he says he understands police officers must make quick decisions, he hopes the incident in Prince George's County will remind them to pause and positively identify a target, before pulling the trigger.

“My heart goes out to that family and I feel, when I see that, I heard about it like taking it all again because he we go again. This is nothing that I would want any family to go through,” he said.

The current spokesman for the Baltimore City Police Department said the changes put in place after Ofc. Torbit's death do remain in effect.