Commissioner ready to act

February 08, 1994|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,Sun Staff Writer

Thomas C. Frazier, the city's new police chief, predicted today a series of reforms aimed at getting the troubled department back on track, including the formation of an intelligence unit and beefed-up street patrols.

"Patrol is the point of battle," the new chief told reporters in a news conference on his first day of work and just 12 hours after his unanimous confirmation by the City Council.

"You will see me more in this uniform than you ever will in a coat and a tie," he added, referring to his new blue uniform with the eight shiny stars of Baltimore's police commissioner on its shoulders.

The commissioner said he is still studying the department's organizational structure to prepare for a major shake-up in the way the department does business. But he said that without having details in place some of his top priorities would likely be:

* Creating an intelligence unit in the department for the first time to gather information on gangs, drug organizations and intrastate criminal enterprises and target them for undercover investigations.

"The narcotics distribution network -- although perhaps not a gang in the traditional Hispanic gang or Blood and Crip model -- basically operates in the same way. There's leadership. There's violence. There's a criminal cartel. And those will be investigated in an organized way."

* Revamping the department's outmoded 911 system to speed up service and cull "nuisance reports" that now constitute about 25 percent of the emergency calls to the department, gobbling up time that could be spent on crime. The system now operates largely on hand-written dispatch orders that further slow down calls for service.

Chief Frazier personally oversaw the installation of a multimillion- dollar 911 system in the San Jose Police Department, where he was deputy chief before coming to Baltimore. That system allows the department to police a city twice the size of Baltimore with half the officers.

* Shifting the department's drug enforcement efforts into investigating large-scale and violence-prone organizations -- and away from arresting street-level dealers and drug users, a current practice that produces log jams in the courts, eats up police time and produces few meaningful sentences, a series in The Sun has shown.

* Moving the department's internal investigations unit into his office to speed up the disciplining of wayward officers and increase accountability to the public and his district commanders.

In the first public response from a ranking city official to the Sun series about problems in the department, Chief Frazier said: "There are facts in there that disturb me. There are some changes that clearly need to be made, and I will make them.

"I had a good deal of that information prior to that series of articles coming out," he said. "What disturbs me to a certain extent is that I think it overlooks the good work done by hundreds and hundreds of conscientious law enforcement officers every single day.

"But I'm always open to constructive criticism."

Mr. Frazier said that even he was surprised to learn from The Sun that the department's sex crimes unit only had one investigator working last year to handle the hundreds of sexual assaults and rapes in the city.

"As I understand it, the way that those resources are distributed is inadequate, and one of the first things that I will do is to make sure that unit is able to respond effectively to sexual assault crimes," he said.

The Sun's series revealed that disciplinary proceedings against officers are sometimes delayed for a year or more -- leading district commanders to complain that a slow and uncertain internal justice system has led to a breakdown in discipline and the rise of petty corruption.

Later in the morning, the new commissioner attended the graduation of the latest police academy class on his first day at work.

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