Council Oks Deputy Police Chief

Residents At City Hall Protest Degraff Remarks

March 27, 1991|By Paul Shread and Arthur Hirsch | Paul Shread and Arthur Hirsch,Staff writers

The Annapolis City Council voted unanimously last night to appoint Baltimore police Col. Joseph S. Johnson the new deputy chief of police.

Johnson, 48, said he was elated by the vote. He said he got a $1,000 raise, to $62,500 a year, and he would retire from the BaltimorePolice Department on July 15 and start work in Annapolis on July 23.

The new deputy chief said he wanted to work with Police Chief Harold Robbins "to attack the perception of racial problems in the department and to improve professionalism."

The council voted as 12 black community leaders and residents gathered in the lobby of City Hallto protest remarks made two weeks ago by Alderman Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, suggesting that no members of the Annapolis Police Department were qualified for the deputy chief job.

The Black Officers Association issued a press release a week ago, saying they considered theremarks racist.

After the vote last night, DeGraff walked out into the lobby with Johnson and defended her comments.

Referring to Johnson, she said, "He's not window-dressing. He is the best. He meetsall the qualifications. We feel sorry that there are some people outthere who have to have a member of their clique (as deputy chief)."

Michael Brown, of the Black Political Forum, had said earlier thatDeGraff "has a practice of saying very insulting things regularly asregards to the black community."

Asked if he wanted an apology from DeGraff, Brown said, "More than that." He would not elaborate.

DeGraff refused to apologize. "I'm waiting for them to apologize."

She said Brown "made up quotes that were never said. It's very easy to call someone a racist."

Ken Webster of Baltimore, a member of the Annapolis chapter of Blacks in Government, had said earlier in theevening, "She's definitely a racist in her position on this issue."

After DeGraff had introduced Johnson and talked with reporters, she and Matthew Thomas, president of the Black Political Forum, talked for a few minutes in the lobby.

"There is a perception in the community that you are being inflammatory," Thomas told DeGraff.

"Thatis a cheap shot," the alderman countered. "I could say there is a perception in the community that you make everything a racial issue."

Thomas told DeGraff he would call her to set up a meeting. He had said earlier that he hoped members of the black community could meet with her to iron out their differences. DeGraff agreed to a meeting.

Johnson, the new deputy chief, grew up in the Eastport section of Annapolis and graduated from Bates High School. He now lives in Birdsville, south of Parole.

He started his career in 1968 as a patrol officer in Baltimore's Southern District. In 1975, he was promoted to sergeant and was assigned to the tactical section.

Nine months ago, he was named chief of patrol, supervising 1,800 officers, the largest command in the department. He is the fifth highest-ranking Baltimore officer.

Police Chief Harold Robbins and Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins announced on March 15 that they had chosen Johnson, a 23-year-veteran and commander of Baltimore's patrol division. The selection came three weeks after the department's Black Officers Association asked Hopkins to hire a black deputy chief.

A year earlier, at an Annapolis event attended by some 300 people, including black city police officers, Hopkins said he would like someone in the room to be named the new deputy chief.

Capt. Norman Randall, the department's senior officer and the ranking black member, had been among Hopkins' top choices. DeGraff, who chairs the council's public safety committee, said two weeks ago she thought Johnson had better credentials than Randall.

She drew the ire of the Black Officers Association when she said "nobody in the department was qualified. None of them even had a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, so if we had hired one of them for deputy chief it would be almost token."

Later, she said the officers should be "ashamed of themselves," adding that "every time they don't get the appointment they want, they cry racism. They've taken all the comments and twisted them out of context."

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