Transfer of 2 white police officers reversed Colonel had ordered them replaced in elite unit with blacks BALTIMORE CITY

June 25, 1993|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

A Baltimore police colonel's order to transfer two white officers out of the city's elite homicide unit to make room for more black investigators has been rescinded by the deputy police commissioner.

Col. George L. Christian had ordered two newly assigned white officers transferred out of the unit and issued specific orders to have them replaced by black officers.

The order was quickly rescinded by Deputy Commissioner Melvin McQuay after the white officers filed formal discrimination complaints with the Fraternal Order of Police and one of them initiated a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The two officers, Police Agent Albert Marcus and Officer Richard Petrey, are back in the unit that chiefly investigates murders, and the "expectation is they will be permanently assigned" there, said Police Agent Doug Price, a department spokesman.

Agent Price confirmed that Mr. McQuay reversed Colonel Christian's order last month after holding a hastily called meeting with Officer Gary McLhinney, a city narcotics officer and a national trustee with the FOP.

Mr. McQuay "didn't drop the ball on this," Officer McLhinney said. "We realize certain units need to have racial diversity. But when dealing with highly specialized units like homicide and crimes like murder, the only qualifications for officers working there should be the abilities of the investigator.

"Colonel Christian's decision was based on color only, and that wasn't fair to the minority and nonminority officers in the unit," Officer McLhinney said.

Speaking through Agent Price, Colonel Christian and Mr. McQuay declined to be interviewed. Agent Marcus could not be reached for comment, and Officer Petrey declined to comment.

According to two Police Department memos, copies of which were obtained by The Sun, Colonel Christian -- who is black -- wrote that Capt. John MacGillivary, commander of the Crimes Against Persons Section, which oversees the homicide unit, "is requested to make a more concerted effort for the detailing of minority members into the Persons Section."

Colonel Christian then wrote that Agent Marcus and Officer Petrey were to be transferred from the homicide unit.

In the other memo, dated a day after Colonel Christian's document, Captain MacGillivary wrote, "Per instruction by the Chief, Criminal Investigation Division, that I make a more concerted effort for the detailing of minority members into the Crimes Against Persons Section, I submit the following members to replace the two nonminority members previously requested."

According to department data, there are 2,908 sworn officers on the force, 33 percent of them members of minorities. Sixty-three detectives and supervisors are assigned to the homicide unit, including 15 blacks, Agent Price said.

The latest city Planning Department figures show Baltimore with 736,014 residents, 59 percent black and 39 percent white.

A high-ranking Police Department source said Colonel Christian's order last month reflects a continuing management problem for the department: wrestling with itself over attempting to place qualified minority officers in elite units while trying to maintain the highest degree of professionalism under tight budget constraints.

"The problem is people should be put in positions because they can help resolve a problem of crime," said the source.

"Not everybody can handle watching an autopsy like they must do in homicide or deal with addicts in the drug unit.

"All things being equal, there should be a racial mix that begins to reflect the population of the city," said the source. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

"But it's wrong to say, 'Don't place white officers in a specific assignment,' because that, too, is discriminatory any way you stretch it. This incident sent a very bad message across the rank and file of this department."

A veteran homicide investigator said that "what really should matter in this unit are your skills. What kind of ability do you have developing informants, interviewing people who are devastated, not getting enough sleep and keeping your emotions under control?

"You should be an investigator who doesn't give up," he said. "And I've worked with people, both black and white, who did all of that and more.

"This incident with the transfers has tilted the playing field. . . . It offends everybody; it stinks."

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