'Instill fear in criminals,' police urge Death penalty, more police sought after shootings

September 22, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer Staff writers Melody Simmons and William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to this article.

On the eve of burying one of their own, the city police officers union asked Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday to "instill fear in criminals" by putting more officers on the street and pushing for use of the death penalty.

"You have to make criminals afraid for their lives. . . . At this point, they have no fear whatsoever of punishment," said Don W. Helms, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents 2,700 of Baltimore's 2,800 officers.

Mr. Helms said the shooting of Officer Ira N. Weiner, who died yesterday of a wound he suffered Saturday when an enraged man took the officer's gun and shot him in the head with it, is indicative of a "continued deteriorating moral fiber of society."

Particularly, that fiber is deteriorating rapidly on the streets of Baltimore, he said, adding that police are becoming targets for criminals who aren't afraid of the law anymore.

He also said the death of Officer Weiner, who will be buried today, might have been prevented if he had an officer immediately backing him up.

"It's hard to know for sure, but it probably would have saved him," Mr. Helms said.

"This department just doesn't have the money to operate. We're just trying to keep hubcaps on the wheels of the patrol cars and gas in the tanks," he said.

Mayor Schmoke, who over the weekend stated his support for the death penalty in no uncertain terms, is reviewing the FOP proposals, said his spokesman, Clinton Coleman.

"The proposals seem in line with what [the mayor] wants," Mr. Coleman said.

Died doing what he loved'

Officer Weiner died at 12:17 a.m. yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He never regained consciousness. Police officers from around the country planned to attend his funeral today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 6010 Reisterstown Road, said his aunt, Leslye Romm. Burial will follow at Oheb Shalom Memorial Park on Berrymans Road in Reisterstown.

The officer, a 1982 graduate of Northwestern High School and a four-year veteran of the Western District, was shot in the back of the head after a struggle with a violent man inside a Mulberry Street rowhouse.

talked about how rough it was getting out there. He said everyday it was getting rougher and rougher," Ms. Romm said.

Officer Weiner grew up in Northwest Baltimore, raised by his mother and grandmother, his aunt said. His teen-age jobs as a newspaper delivery boy and a stock clerk at a Farm Fresh grocery store were a far cry from the violent streets of Baltimore, but "he always wanted to be a police officer," Ms. Romm said.

Always a physically strong person -- his police departmental records list him as 5 feet 10 inches, 240 pounds -- Officer Weiner refused to pitch baseball as a child, "because he could throw so hard that he feared he would hurt the children in Little League," his aunt recalled.

In his 20s, Officer Weiner worked as a night clerk at Valu Food, a night auditor at a Ramada Inn, and an assistant manager for a liquor store, his personnel records show.

When he finally joined the force, he had to give up the bowling league he enjoyed so much, but he was thrilled to become a police officer, Ms. Romm said.

He was somewhat reluctant to tell his mother about his decision to be a police officer because he feared she would worry, Ms. Romm said. "She worried for him, but she accepted it as what he wanted to do," Ms. Romm said. "He found himself in police work. He died doing what he loved."

Another officer shot

The shooting of Officer Weiner came less than 24 hours after an other officer, James E. Young Jr., was critically wounded after being shot in the head in a high-rise building in the Flag House Courts public housing complex in East Baltimore.

In that case, Officer Young was attacked as he attempted to make a drug arrest in a stairwell. His back-up officer was on the other side of the building at the time.

The prognosis for Officer Young is still unknown. He remained in critical condition at Shock-Trauma last night and has limited ability to respond to verbal commands.

Three suspects have been arrested in the incident.

The Baltimore City Council last night unanimously passed a resolution expressing "shock and outrage over these despicable crimes against these police officers," offered condolences to Officer Weiner's family, friends and fellow officers, and resolved to pray for Officer Young's recovery.

FOP proposals

Among 10 proposals sent to the mayor's office by the FOP yesterday was a plan that would put two police officers in each car patrolling the city's 36 patrol sectors. Patrol cars are now staffed with one officer, said Mr. Helms, the FOP lodge president.

"The Police Department doesn't have enough manpower, and the officers are nervous. The criminals have bigger guns and better equipment," Mr. Helms said.

The police lodge is also asking the mayor to lobby vigorously to renew use of the death penalty. No one has been legally executed in Maryland in nearly 31 years.

Other proposals are to reinstitute a separate charge for assault on police, authorize overtime to all districts for purposes of beefing up patrols, and mandatory five-year sentences for those convicted a second time of handgun possession.

In its proposal, the lodge also requested the "hiring of more police officers to deal with the continued deteriorating moral fiber of society."

Tension in Murphy Homes

The tension over the shootings is evident in some areas of the city. On Sunday, a 20-year-old bystander was wounded during a gun battle involving police officers near the George B. Murphy Homes public housing complex.

The incident has renewed fear and anger among residents of Murphy Homes, where violent crime and drug peddling are commonplace.

"This is the calm before the storm," threatened a 16-year-old res

ident who refused to give his name. "Come back tonight and see what I'm talking about."

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