Frederick to hire more black police

January 06, 1993|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

In a deal that settles a racial discrimination lawsuit, the city o Frederick has agreed to hire at least one black police officer for every nonblack hired until its force is about 13 percent African-American.

The agreement, to be announced today, is between the city and the nonprofit Public Justice Center. It settles a 1991 suit brought against Frederick police by Willie J. Mahone, a Frederick attorney. Mr. Mahone alleged that the almost all-white police force routinely stopped and searched blacks without probable cause.

The settlement, billed as "historic" by the Baltimore-based justice center, includes a five-part plan to fully integrate the Frederick police force.

The city has agreed to:

* Increase the number of black officers in the force to a percentage no less than the proportion of African-American adults in Frederick, now about 13 percent, and maintain that percentage of black officers.

The 90-member force had one black officer when the suit was filed and now has three African-Americans, the justice center said.

* Appoint a police department community relations officer within six months.

* Revamp its racial sensitivity training program and retrain all current officers.

* Change the police force's internal regulations to include disciplinary penalties for any racial slurs made by officers.

* Revise its hiring process to try to identify and screen out bigoted applicants.

"We hope this historic settlement also sends a loud and clear message to all police forces across the state of Maryland that they must be responsive to and reflective of all segments of their communities," Daniel Goldstein, lead attorney for Mr. Mahone, said in a statement.

Mayor Paul P. Gordon, in a statement issued by Frederick, called the plan "an exciting step in the process of restructuring the police department so that it is responsive to the needs of all citizens of the city."

The principals and lawyers in the case said that, as part of the settlement, they would not comment further until today.

Mr. Mahone, who is black, filed suit in Frederick County Circuit Court 18 months ago after he was stopped twice by Frederick police and charged with drunken driving. Both charges were dropped. The suit alleged that Frederick police officers often stopped blacks without probable cause and searched them for drugs or tested them for drunkenness.

Michael Millemann, a University of Maryland law professor, said the Supreme Court has ruled that affirmative action plans such as the one agreed to by Frederick are constitutional so long as they remedy a history of past discrimination.

In the Mahone case, Mr. Millemann said, "there was a documented history of discrimination in Frederick in the hiring of police officers, and the plaintiff was prepared to prove it."

In accepting the settlement, Frederick officials have denied any wrongdoing.

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