Public safety chief to take Hopkins job Robinson to handle hospital security

April 25, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer Staff writer Joe Nawrozki contributed to this article.

Bishop L. Robinson, Maryland's secretary of public safety and correctional services for the past six years, will resign to become "security czar" of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex in East Baltimore, state and hospital officials confirmed.

Mr. Robinson, 66, a career police officer who has overseen one of the state's largest agencies through its most difficult times, will assume his new post in June, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The secretary, a reserved and private man, could not be reached for comment. His departmental spokesman, Leonard A. Sipes Jr., would only say: "I cannot confirm nor deny those reports."

Mr. Robinson has been discussing the Hopkins position for months, but only last week signed a contract with the hospital, the officials said.

Hopkins spokeswoman Elaine Freeman would only say: "We have had a series of discussions, and they are drawing to a close. We hope to have an announcement next week."

Hopkins and the state are expected to announce Mr. Robinson's move tomorrow.

Mr. Robinson visited the Hopkins complex Friday and spoke with members of the security force, one hospital official said.

His Hopkins salary was not disclosed, but one official said it will be "significantly more" than the $108,372 he earns with the state.

It also was unclear whether Mr. Robinson would bring any other state employees with him to Hopkins, as has been rumored for months. One Hopkins official said plans had been made for the eventual hiring of three security directors, who would work under Mr. Robinson and handle external and internal security.

Frequently mentioned as a possible appointment to fill one of those three spots is Maryland Correction Commissioner Richard A. Lanham Sr., former chief of the Baltimore City Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division and a longtime Robinson confidant.

Hopkins officials began looking for a high-profile security chief 00 last year after the hospital was hit by several particularly brazen violent crimes, including the abduction of a doctor, the robbery of a professor at knife-point in her office and the rape of a medical student.

The name of a possible replacement for Mr. Robinson has not been floated, but David Bezanson, deputy public safety secretary, would be next in line as acting secretary.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer picked Mr. Robinson to take over the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in February 1987, after a career in the Baltimore Police Department that culminated in him being named commissioner in 1984 by then-Mayor Schaefer.

It surprised few that Mr. Robinson was elevated to head the state agency after Mr. Schaefer was elected governor in 1986. Like many key legislators, Mr. Schaefer holds Mr. Robinson in high regard.

Mr. Robinson is among the first Cabinet secretaries to leave the lame-duck administration of Mr. Schaefer, who has 19 months left in his second term.

The secretary runs an agency of 12,000 employees with a $700 million operating budget and a capital budget of $46 million this year. He oversees all the state's public safety agencies, including the Maryland State Police, State Fire Marshal, Division of Correction, Patuxent Institution, Division of Parole and Probation, Maryland Parole Commission and the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, which includes the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Mr. Robinson has pointed proudly to his "Action Agenda Plan," a comprehensive public safety plan -- including an ambitious prison construction program for 10,500 new beds -- that he proposed just after taking over as a department head.

Highlights of that plan include installation of a new statewide computerized fingerprint system, creation of the prison system's Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp in Jessup, reorganization of the state police, and legislative approval of a central booking and intake facility to be constructed next to the Baltimore CityDetention Center. He also has ushered in the replacement of the Maryland Penitentiary's ancient South Wing -- once described as the "innermost circle of hell" -- with the Metropolitan Reintegration System.

Mr. Robinson also scrapped the Patuxent Institution's long-term psychiatric rehabilitation and treatment program for inmates serving long sentences for violent crimes. Amid a flap over the institution, he succeeded in changing it into an alcohol and drug rehabilitation and work-release center for less violent criminals with shorter sentences.

That overhaul came after a 1988 uproar over an inmate convicted of three murders who was given daylong unsupervised leaves and a convicted rapist who was allowed to continue on work release, though he tested positive for cocaine use.

His biggest challenge has been the state's mounting problems in the overburdened prison system -- which is plagued with personnel shortages, budget limitations and an inmate population that skyrocketed 52 percent to 20,000 during his time as public safety secretary.

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