Failing commissioner

R. B. Jones

February 16, 1993|By R. B. Jones

THE recent call by City Councilman Lawrence Bell, D-4th, for a more effective war against crime in Baltimore City was a statement that many people inside and outside of government have been making in private but were reluctant to make publicly.

Fewer and fewer Baltimoreans have great confidence in the ability of the current leadership in the mayor's office and in the police commissioner's office. Mayor Kurt Schmoke campaigned on the issue of leadership in 1987, and the citizens of Baltimore voted him into office in the belief that he would show management skills commensurate with his impressive academic credentials.

Police Commissioner Edward Woods does not appear to have a handle on running the department, which is deeply demoralized. He has not outlined any strategy for regaining the momentum in the war against crime, and his demeanor and responses to criticism do not inspire confidence.

There is supposed to be a war against crime in this city, but the top generals, Schmoke and Woods, do not display any sense of urgency. Councilman Bell summed the situation up nicely when he said that he regularly hears gunshots outside his home near Druid Hill Park. That is a common occurrence in the city. If the mayor and the commissioner cannot reduce the number of gunshots Baltimoreans hear at night, they can act as if they are wracking their brains to find solutions.

Baltimore City police are losing the war on crime, and they are losing the support of many people in the community who see the police in the contradictory roles of oppressors and disinterested noncombatants.

It is true that the police do not have enough personnel, but that isn't the main problem. Resources the police do possess aren't used wisely. Violent criminals should be prime targets.

The city police must evoke in Baltimoreans a sense that they are committed to winning the war on violent crime. A lethargic police force emboldens street criminals. Far too many patrol officers are "fishbowling" -- riding around without becoming involved.

Demanding that the mayor and commissioner reduce crime by a certain date or resign is reasonable and acceptable. Baltimoreans should not have to live in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

R. B. Jones is an instructor at Sojourner-Douglass College.

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