A deputy police chief from St. Petersburg, Fla., is likely to become Annapolis' next police chief, sources said yesterday.
The City Council will meet in closed session this afternoon to consider Harold Robbins, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' top pick for the job, sources said. Robbins was one of six finalists for the chief's job, out of 130 candidates who applied. Hopkins appoints the chief, but the council must confirm his choice.
Neither Hopkins nor City Administrator Michael Mallinoff could be reached for comment, but sources in St. Petersburg said Robbins flew into Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday.
Robbins, 42, is set to take over from former chief John C. Schmitt, who retired in May amid charges of mismanagement and racism, both of which he denied.
Robbins has been praised as a solid administrator with good interpersonal skills.
Sam Lynn, who retired recently as St. Petersburg's police chief, said Robbins began working for the department in 1969 as a patrol officer, and worked his way up through the ranks. He became deputy chief in charge of patrol in 1980, and, in 1982, became deputy chief in charge of investigation. He is one of three deputy chiefs in the 500-officer department.
"He's an excellent administrator, and he'll make an excellent chief," Lynn said. "He's an all-around nice guy." Robbins is married and has three children, he said.
Recent stories in the St. Petersburg Times also praised Robbins' administrative abilities and called him "a cop's cop."
In 1973, while arresting a woman who was attempting to cash a fraudulent prescription, Robbins was shot in the chest and almost died, the Times said.
Robbins has considerable experience in drug enforcement, Lynn said. He worked as an undercover narcotics detective and teaches aspects of drug investigation around the country, he said.
He has been looking for a new job for some time. Stories in the Times said Robbins was a finalist for police chief jobs in Fort Pierce, Fla., and Roanoke, Va., recently. He turned down the Roanoke job but wasn't offered the Fort Pierce job, the paper said.
Robbins, who is white, will face some tough challenges in Annapolis. The department and the city's black community have been divided over the treatment of two black officers, Sgt. Robert E. Beans and Officer Chandler Powell, who spent eight months on desk duty while the department and state agencies investigated the operations of their unit, the now-defunct Delta Force drug squad.
The controversy began when Beans accused white officers of racism and racial sabotage. The two officers have been returned to duty, after Beans was cleared of a variety of charges by a departmental review board and charges against Powell dropped.
Capt. Cassin Gittings, who has served as acting chief since May but didn't apply for the chief's job, has worked to ease tensions within the department and with the black community. The Hopkins administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which conducted the search, have said they are looking for someone to continue healing tensions.
Hopkins has said that if City Council members go along, he would support hiring a black deputy police chief.
St. Petersburg has about 250,000 residents, about 16 percent of whom are black. About 35 percent of Annapolis' 35,000 residents are black.