Council endorses move to promote minority and female police officers

December 15, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The Annapolis City Council has endorsed controversial efforts by its police and fire chiefs to promote minorities and reorganize their departments -- efforts rank-and-file members of both agencies have decried.

City Attorney Paul Goetzke said the council, by a 7-2 vote, directed him during a private meeting Monday to defend the city against a lawsuit challenging the promotion of five African-American and female police officers.

The council also voted, 7-2, to uphold Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock's plans to transfer more than half of the city's 80 unionized firefighters to different battalions, stations and apparatus.

The council met privately Monday night with Police Chief Harold Robbins and Chief Sherlock to discuss those personnel moves.

Mr. Goetzke said a suit brought by 13 current and former police officers is set to go to trial Feb. 13. The officers believe they were unfairly passed over for promotion to the rank of corporal in favor of the five minority officers.

Chief Robbins said the promotions, filling five newly created corporal positions, were necessary because all 10 corporals within the department are white men.

The 13 officers, all of whom were higher on an expired corporal eligibility list than some or all of those promoted, contend the move violated city code, which provides for merit-based promotions.

Republican Aldermen M. Theresa DeGraff, Ward 7, and Wayne Turner, Ward 6, voted against the promotions.

No one should be promoted simply because he or she is a minority, said Alderman DeGraff, chairman of the council's public safety committee.

"People should be promoted on merit," she said. "If you didn't score at the top of the promotional test, you should study a little harder and take the test again."

Alderman DeGraff added, "Our Hispanic community is growing pretty quickly now. Does that mean we have to create still more corporal positions so that we can have Hispanic representation the ranks?"

Alderman Turner said he was angry that the promotions were made behind the backs of the majority of the council. He noted that the council has not yet voted to create and fund the five positions.

A Circuit Court judge has issued an injunction barring the council from doing so until after the trial.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat, said "What Chief Robbins tried to do was a worthwhile goal."

He did not hold the same opinion of Chief Sherlock's transfers, which he said were politically motivated to punish firefighters who actively supported former Mayor Dennis Callahan in the Nov. 2 mayoral election against incumbent Alfred A. Hopkins.

Aldermen Snowden and Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat, were the only two to withhold their support of Chief Sherlock.

"Clearly, it was a political move," Alderman Snowden said of the transfers.

Political or not, Alderman Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 independent, said the fire chief has the authority to make those transfers without interference from the council.

"The chief says this will improve morale, so we'll be following this very closely to see what happens now," Alderman DeGraff said.

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