Schmoke dumps top cop

August 06, 1993

As Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has gotten increasingly serious about pursuing the governorship, he has begun to dump his political liabilities.

The first to go was Housing Commissioner Robert W. Hearn, who got the boot in April and was replaced by Daniel P. Henson, a successful developer and a trusted political associate.

Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods' turn came this week. He got an urgent summons from City Hall while he was participating in the "Project Survival" golf tournament Monday.

He left with a troubled expression on his face. Two days later he announced his retirement. "We had a long conversation. He simply thought that it was time to go," Mr. Schmoke explained.

This is an internal house-cleaning Mr. Schmoke should have undertaken years ago, certainly after his re-election in late 1991.

Everyone knew by then the housing department was a mess. As for the police department, outside consultants found police officers "with a strong sense that they are neglected by the organization and that they are not respected by the community."

Despite all the evidence that these two important departments needed a change of leadership, the mayor kept vacillating.

This was part of a pattern.

He had behaved the same way after his first school superintendent, Richard Hunter, proved unsuitable for the job.

He was similarly unable to take quick corrective action after nearly everyone -- from his political allies to the civic and business communities -- complained that the mayor's office was out of touch, could not be reached on important matters or failed to follow through on its promises.

In each case, the core problem was poor appointments to begin with. In choosing his lieutenants, Mr. Schmoke had a tendency to vacillate. Pressure groups knew this weakness; they used it to their advantage.

Baltimore City cannot afford mayoral flip-flopping in selecting new police commissioner.

A soaring murder rate and an alarming rise in larcenies and other holdups -- trends which are being shared by many other metropolitan jurisdictions -- have citizens on edge. Meanwhile, internal power struggles are wracking the demoralized police department, which faces fresh allegations of serious drug-related corruption.

It is no secret that Mr. Schmoke has been searching for a successor to Mr. Woods for several months. We urge him to look outside the department. Baltimore needs a top cop who is strong on management and who can return the citizens' confidence in the police department.

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