About a dozen members of a Baltimore County black citizens group gathered in Towson's Courthouse Square yesterday to protest that they are being treated as second-class citizens by the county government, police and schools.
Leaders of the Coalition of Concerned African American Organizations questioned the lack of minorities on the County Council and their sparse numbers at the management level of local government agencies.
They also contended that the county's police department was unresponsive to complaints from black citizens of police brutality and that the school system is unsympathetic to the needs of black children.
"The county systematically discriminates against blacks," said the Rev. W. James Favorite, president of the African American coalition and pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Catonsville. "It's designed to keep us where we are . . . going nowhere soon."
Mr. Favorite said there is only one way to correct the racial inequities he sees in Baltimore County -- by putting more blacks in public office.
"As long as we don't vote, we're going to be second-class citizens in Baltimore County," he said, noting that the county's 85,000 blacks are about 12.3 percent of the population.
As an example of discrimination, Mr. Favorite cited what happened when County Executive Roger B. Hayden requested the names of blacks qualified to head the county's legal office and environmental protection division last fall.
Emmett C. Burns, an official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, submitted the names of five candidates in hopes that Mr. Hayden would appoint a minority to his Cabinet.
"It was an exercise in futility," Mr. Burns said. "Roger Hayden rejected all the names based not on the quality, but the quantity of white folks he wants around him."
Adrienne Jones, the county's director of minority affairs, said that there was a need for improvement in the county's hiring of minorities, butthat the practice of "excluding" blacks and women existed long before the current administration.
"I've been in county government for 15 years, and I've seen the way it's operated," said Ms. Jones, one of the few blacks on Mr. Hayden's staff.
A black has not held a Cabinet post since Donald P. Hutchinson's last administration in the mid-1980s.
Ms. Jones said her department has made efforts to reform hiring practices, ensuring that county department heads are aware of qualified minority applicants and that minorities pursue higher positions.
"All candidates for a position may be qualified, but we're trying to encourage department heads to give minority applicants a chance and not exclude them from selection based on subjectivity," she said.
E. Jay Miller, a police spokesman, responded to the allegations against his department by noting that police are investigating four complaints of brutality. He added that commanders have been urged to review racial incidents in their precincts and meet routinely with local black leaders.
Steve Jones, director of minority affairs for schools, also rebutted the charges. He said the county has made great strides to improve education for minorities, increase academic achievement, expand the curriculum and hire more black educators.