City Councilman Lawrence A. Bell did the right thing by calling for the resignation of Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods if Baltimore's crime rate does not decrease over the next six months.
It is time to get some accountability from the municipal government. If such accountability cannot be forced by means other than threats of firing, then so be it.
As chairman of the City Council's subcommittee on public safety, Mr. Bell is within his rights of both demanding action and a change of leadership, if corrective action is not forthcoming.
This newspaper has had its differences with Mr. Bell in the past. We once even called him a "political accident," who had failed to live up to his constituents' considerable expectations.
In the past several months, it has become clear that the mild-mannered Mr. Bell is trying harder. We applaud him for that.
As a councilman from the Fourth District, he lives in and represents a West Baltimore area which includes some of the highest crime pockets and meanest streets of the city. Homicides, drugs, prostitution, violent domestic arguments -- all those are a daily occurrence. And instead of getting better, the situation is getting worse.
Mr. Bell did not issue his ultimatum to Commissioner Woods precipitously. For months, his subcommittee has been trying to obtain first-hand information about the Police Department's crime fighting plans. As Baltimore broke previous homicide records and fear of violence increased, an understanding of such strategies became a community-wide urgency.
Instead of cooperation, however, the Police Department chose to cold-shoulder the City Council's inquiries.
Finally, in December, the council felt it had to pass a resolution instructing Commissioner Woods to appear before it to explain the progress and timetable of his community policing initiative, which was announced a year ago. "I've had this feeling for a long time but I've been kind of biting my tongue," Mr. Bell says of his frustration.
It is time for Commissioner Woods to outline the city's crime-fighting strategy to both the City Council and the public. He should explain the implementation of his community policing plan as if his job depended on it.
Baltimore and its citizens support the local Police Department. Indeed, Mr. Bell says he will be the happiest office holder in the city if he can praise Commissioner Woods in six months. But that praise must be earned as never before.