Panel Asks Degraff To Resign From Committee

March 29, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

The Annapolis Police-Minority Community Relations Board has called for Alderman Theresa DeGraff to resign as chairwoman of the City Council's public safety committee.

The 15-member board, appointed last summer by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins to ease tensions between police andthe black community, voted Wednesday night to ask DeGraff to step down. The board cited remarks she made about the search for a new deputy chief that police officers and community leaders have construed as racist.

"Her statement has caused polarization in this community," the board said in a letter addressed to Hopkins. "We take this action because it expresses our strongest condemnation."

The letter was signedby board Chairman Frank Brown. It did not give details of the vote, but said it was unanimous. Copies were sent to aldermen.

Reached for comment last night, DeGraff said she hadn't seen the letter or heard of the vote, but she said she would not resign. She had no furthercomment.

Hopkins said he would not comment until he had seen the letter. He said he didn't know if he had the authority to remove committee chairmen.

The controversy began two weeks ago, when DeGraff said that no officer in the police department was qualified to becomedeputy chief. Hopkins had proposed the position and said he wanted to hire a minority to fill it.

Capt. Norman Randall, the department's senior officer and the ranking black member, had been among Hopkins' top prospects for the deputy position.

DeGraff said she never claimed that no black officers were qualified for the job, but rather that no one in the department was as qualified as Baltimore Police Col. Joseph S. Johnson, who was hired officially Tuesday. DeGraff said two weeks ago she thought Johnson had better credentials than Randall.

Tuesday night, as the council voted on a new deputy chief, 12 black community leaders and residents gathered in the lobby of City Hall to protest DeGraff's remarks.

She refused to apologize, but agreed to meet with black leaders.

At a press conference two weeks ago, Police Chief Harold Robbins also said that no officers in the department were qualified, but black leaders said they took exception to DeGraff's "inflammatory" language.

"One of the things I had heartburn over with hiring a black deputy chief . . . was that nobody in thedepartment 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," DeGraff said two weeks ago.

Later, after the BOA called on her to apologize, DeGraff 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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