Law man from San Jose

December 21, 1993

Thomas C. Frazier, the San Jose (Calif.) deputy chief whom Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday named Baltimore City's new police commissioner, sees himself as a "change agent." At the same time, he acknowledges restructuring the Police Department here is "like turning a big, old ship."

The 48-year-old chief, whose only prior link to Baltimore was a month spent in training at Fort Holabird before military duty in Vietnam, thinks he can alter that course. "It is time to look at how the department is organized and allocated," he said.

Like recently retired Cornelius J. Behan, who was hired from New York City to modernized Baltimore County's police, Mr. Frazier seems to be a strong manager. He has broad law-enforcement experience and has served as an instructor in California and Illinois as well as in Canada.

Mr. Frazier said yesterday his two top priorities in Baltimore will be reviewing the way the city is patrolled each 24-hour period and instituting community policing. He estimated the latter task could take between five and eight years to complete.

Mr. Frazier seems well equipped to implement this program. In San Jose, he was the first person selected in a citywide management competition to act as an assistant to the city manager. His projects crossed departmental lines of responsibility and involved reviewing the goals and objectives of various municipal departments. He also made presentations on sensitive issues to the City Council.

All this should help him implement community policing, which in Mr. Frazier's definition includes arresting offenders, the early prevention of crime and improving a city's overall quality of life. "Perception of safety is as important as safety," he explained. "I don't think it's right to be afraid in your city." That means "a local police department has to deal with problems on the street. I think we have a responsibility to take people who are a danger to others off the street."

Mr. Frazier, who faces City Council confirmation, will start his Baltimore job in February. He comes here at a time when the nation is increasingly preoccupied with crime. The rising surge of random violence usually involving guns and drugs has been especially troubling in this city, which has exceeded all previous murder records this year.

The $2 million police grant to Baltimore from the Clinton administration yesterday indicates new resources will be available. More federal funds are likely because crime is now a hot political issue for candidates up for election in 1994. Meanwhile, high-tech innovations planned for the state's booking and detention center being built on the Fallsway should free up a substantial number of city police officers for patrols. Mr. Frazier's task is to take advantage of these developments and stem the tide of violence on Baltimore's troubled streets.

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