Frazier easing into job

January 25, 1994|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Baltimore's new top policeman-to-be has quietly slipped into his job.

Thomas C. Frazier, the nominee to be Baltimore's new police commissioner, began his first full week as acting head of the city's Police Department, holding nonstop meetings inside and outside his office.

Mr. Frazier arrived in town Thursday night and was quietly appointed acting police commissioner by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke on Friday until his appointment can be confirmed by the City Council.

Yesterday, the former San Jose, Calif., police chief "had a series of staff meetings" in his eighth-floor office at police headquarters and an adjacent boardroom, said city police spokesman San Ringgold.

"He met with the deputy commissioners; I had a meeting with him. He met with various members of the command staff and majors of various units," Mr. Ringgold said.

"He's been doing a lot of listening," Mr. Ringgold added.

Mr. Frazier also met with a "community leader" before arriving for work about 8:30 yesterday morning and had a private meeting with business leaders last night, Mr. Ringgold said, but he declined to identify any of the participants.

Peter N. Marudas, an aide to Mr. Schmoke, said the mayor decided to have Mr. Frazier begin work on an acting basis because, "We thought it was important he assume his duties as quickly as possible."

Mr. Frazier, whose appointment was announced by Mr. Schmoke Dec. 20, had been in Baltimore Jan. 9-12.

During that four-day trip, Mr. Frazier toured all nine police districts and met with the head of the police union and the presidents of the district community-relations councils.

"He's preparing for his confirmation hearing, but more than that he's getting a handle on the department," Mr. Ringgold said.

That hearing -- scheduled to be held Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. and televised on city cable Channel 44 -- will focus on Mr. Frazier's qualifications and priorities, according to the chairman of the City Council committee that will consider his nomination.

Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, D-4th, who chairs the council's executive appointments committee, said he viewed Mr. Frazier's Feb. 2 hearing as "not antagonistic, but educational." The council, which returned from a six-week winter recess last night, is expected to vote on the nomination Feb. 7.

Mr. Bell, who pushed the date of the hearing up a week at the request of Mayor Schmoke, said, "I think [the mayor and the council are] in step to the point that he and we agree that crime is the No. 1 issue for us to address."

The nomination of Mr. Frazier, 48, who if confirmed to the $106,000-a-year job would become Baltimore's first outside commissioner in nearly 30 years, appears to enjoy wide support on the council.

"I don't think there's going to be any problem with his confirmation," predicted Councilman John L. Cain, D-1st, a member of the executive nominations committee.

Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, another committee member, a frequent critic of Mr. Schmoke's, praised the process that led to the choice of Mr. Frazier, a 27-year veteran of the San Jose police force. In that process, a search committee narrowed a field of more than 80 candidates to a list of four finalists, with Mr. Schmoke making the final choice.

"Unless we get serious about crime, this city is doomed to fail. We need to start yesterday," Mr. Ambridge said.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who has announced she will challenge Mr. Schmoke for mayor in 1995, said the most important question for her about Mr. Frazier is, "Is he here to fight drugs to win or just to fight drugs to fight?"

One of the few criticisms about the appointment of Mr. Frazier, who is white, has come from some black clergymen, who feel Mr. Schmoke should have selected a black.

The Rev. Douglas I. Miles, senior pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in East Baltimore, said that Mr. Schmoke's appointment sends a "sad message" to the black community that there are no qualified blacks to head the Police Department and said black council members should question his appointment.

But Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, the head of the council's African-American Coalition, said flatly that Mr. Frazier's race would not be an issue in the hearing.

"The time for that is over. We want someone to get the job done. I don't care if they're purple," the 6th District councilman said.

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