One day after he stunned subordinates and sparked suspicion of favoritism by announcing a raft of 11th-hour sergeant promotions, Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods moved to soothe departmental jitters yesterday -- saying the 10 officers he elevated are "the best we have."
Indeed, the list of new sergeants includes seven officers who have been decorated for valor or professional excellence and four homicide detectives with more than 25 years experience as investigators.
All the officers, who will receive their stripes in a ceremony Tuesday, have served at least a decade with the department.
In a surprise move, Mr. Woods chose the sergeants from a 2-year-old list of candidates hours before it was to be replaced by a new one and only days before he is scheduled to step down as commissioner.
The decision ignited rumors early this week that Mr. Woods was trying to stack the ranks with supporters on his way out of the door -- rumors he was in no position to suppress because he was out of town on business.
The list of candidates had not been released, leaving the rank-and-file to guess at the names.
Seven of the new sergeants are white men; two are black men; and one is a Hispanic woman.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Woods acknowledged the troubling appearances briefly, then offered assurances that his intentions in choosing from the roster of veteran officers was to "leave Baltimore in good hands."
"This is one of my farewells to the department and the people we serve," he said. "It so happens that I am leaving in two weeks, and it so happens that I have selected these names from a list that is about to expire. But these are some of the very best people we have, and that will not change no matter what else does.
"I hope it is seen as a gesture of goodwill to the department and the city."
Mr. Woods interviewed each of the prospective sergeants yesterday, encouraging them not to let departmental intrigues dampen their sense of triumph at achieving a rank that fewer than half of all officers ever reach.
Their selection means -- for them -- an end to grueling promotion cycles in which they vied in department-wide exams every two years for rank on a candidate list, a $5,000 raise and access to the upper ranks of the department. In one year, the new sergeants can apply for lieutenant.
The list Mr. Woods chose them from was compiled after the October 1991 exam cycle in which 245 officers were ranked and 70 top scorers were promoted. At midnight last night, a new list from an exam scored last summer took effect, and the old one expired.
"You sit on that list for two years, hoping and praying for that call from the commissioner that usually doesn't come," said Hayes C. Larkins, a professor at Baltimore City Community College who teaches criminal justice courses to officers hoping to improve their scores.
To Detective Richard C. Fahlteich Sr. -- a 20-year veteran -- his promotion yesterday is a reward long sought and an incentive to lengthen his career in a 2,900-member force sapped of experience in recent years by early retirements.
"I've been on lists that died when I was within five names of the top," he said. "And I expected it to happen again. I was completely shocked when it didn't. I mean, my mouth fell open.
"It feels good. It satisfies a goal I set for myself a long time ago. And it keeps me here longer doing what I love to do.
"I think Commissioner Woods has done one last good thing for the department, the city and 10 individuals."
THEY WILL GET THEIR STRIPES TUESDAY
Officer Michael W. Jordan, 36, Eastern District, 18-year veteran
Detective Richard C. Fahlteich Sr., 49, Criminal Investigation, 19 years
Officer Mark E. Howe*, 32, Southwestern District, 13 years
Officer Kirk R. Fleet, 38, Northwestern District, 19 years
Officer John N. Sturgeon Sr.*, 46, Central District, 20 years
Detective Richard L. James*, 42, Criminal Investigation, 21 years
Agent John J. McNamara*, 53, Central District, 22 years
Detective Berry L. Grant*, 39, Criminal Investigation, 16 years
Officer David B. Munyan*, 33, Southern District, 13 years
Detective Zeinab Rabold*, 36, Criminal Investigation, 11 years