City Council, in 18-0 vote, approves Frazier as new police commissioner

February 08, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

In a solemn show of support, the Baltimore City Council gave its blessing last night to Thomas C. Frazier and called on the new police commissioner to rescue the city from its worsening spiral of drug-related violence.

The council voted 18-0, with one absence, to appoint Mr. Frazier. Even though Mr. Frazier was not there, council member after council member urged him to act quickly to restore public confidence in the beleaguered Baltimore police force.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke pointedly described how two young drug dealers have set up shop in the lobby of a high-rise for senior citizens.

"If I can see it, why can't you?" she demanded.

"For the past six years, in a rising chorus of outrage, all of Baltimore has pummeled the powers that be with this incredulous question," she said.

"In response, we live daily with the defeatism . . . [that] corrupts public trust and compromises police initiative with its official tolerance of even the most blatant illegal activities -- on our corners, in our lobbies, in the drug house next door."

Mr. Frazier, the 48-year-old former deputy police chief of San Jose, Calif., has promised to crack down on open drug trafficking and to personally handle complaints of brutality and racism.

At his 4 1/2 -hour confirmation hearing a week ago, he listened to moving pleas for action from council members and the father of a murdered college student.

The man described as a no-nonsense, forward-looking administrator must reinvigorate the police force and find a way to stop the violence that occurs night after night in Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods, council members said last night.

Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, a 4th District Democrat who represents neighborhoods with some of the highest crime rates, recited a list of goals for the new commissioner.

"He must root out corruption. He must boost the sagging morale of the average police officer," Mr. Bell said. "Most importantly, he must foster an atmosphere of trust between the department and the people."

Mr. Bell was a frequent critic of former commissioner Edward V. Woods, who retired in August as the city was on the way to a record 353 murders.

Mr. Frazier, a 27-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department, has said there are no quick solutions but pledged to be tough on street crime and drug trafficking.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who selected Mr. Frazier over three other finalists, said he expects the new commissioner to make a visible difference on the streets.

"I wouldn't use the term crisis to describe the Baltimore Police Department," the mayor said yesterday. "There are problems in the department, but they are solvable."

Several council members, however, sounded more pessimistic as they talked about the deeply entrenched police problems being portrayed in a series of articles in The Sun.

Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, a 4th District Democrat who lives near a street that is taken over by drug dealers at night, said the department "is in worse shape than I expected."

"I hope the commissioner at least picks up on the fact that he ought to listen to the people who are out there daily," she said, adding that the department must explain law enforcement efforts to the community.

Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, a 2nd District Democrat, said the city is in a crisis. "If we don't do something about crime . . . we're going to suffer with suburban flight."

And Mrs. Clarke concluded by reminding the commissioner that an entire city is watching.

"He wanted the job and says he can do it," she said. "We hold him accountable as the public holds us."

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