Md. Police union endorses Bennett

April 14, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Turning its back on incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr. and two other Democrats, Maryland's police union yesterday threw its support to a Republican, former federal prosecutor Richard D. Bennett, in the race for state attorney general.

Darryl A. Jones Sr., president of the 13,600-member Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police, said Mr. Bennett "is our sole candidate, regardless of what happens in the Democratic primary."

"Over the past decade, crime has continually risen, especially violent crime," Mr. Jones said at a news conference at Baltimore FOP headquarters in Hampden. "Not enough has been done to combat this horrendous problem and it is time for a change. That change will begin with Dick Bennett."

Mr. Bennett, who served for seven years as U.S. attorney for Maryland or as an assistant in the office, won the endorsement over a trio of Democrats -- Mr. Curran, a two-term incumbent and former lieutenant governor; ex-deputy attorney general Eleanor M. Carey; and Rockville lawyer Patrick J. Smith, who managed ex-Sen. Paul E. Tsongas' successful 1992 Maryland presidential primary campaign.

Seeking to become the first Republican elected attorney general in 75 years, Mr. Bennett portrayed the FOP endorsement as a momentous event in a campaign he began last spring upon his departure from the U.S. attorney's office.

"This endorsement is more important to me than any other I will receive," he said. "Today the police officers, the people on the beat, the guy on the street, have made me your candidate and I can promise you I don't intend to let you down."

Mr. Jones said that the FOP endorsement reflected an affirmation of Mr. Bennett, but disappointment in Mr. Curran's seven-year stewardship as well.

"We're concerned that we have a more aggressive attorney general and one that will be more supportive of the police throughout the state," he said.

Mr. Jones said the FOP board endorsed Mr. Bennett unanimously, in contrast to the 17-16 vote by which it backed Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening over Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. That endorsement was announced Tuesday.

Robin Pressman, Mr. Curran's campaign manager, reacted to the Bennett endorsement by speculating that some FOP officials objected to the attorney general's support for efforts to retry Baltimore police Officer Edward T. Gorwell II on manslaughter charges.

Officer Gorwell was accused of shooting and killing a 14-year-old unarmed boy as he ran from a stolen car with a group of other teen-agers. The case ended in a mistrial after a juror was disqualified for failing to appear for deliberations.

A judge has since ruled that Officer Gorwell cannot be retried. An appeal to overturn that ruling has been filed. Mr. Bennett said yesterday that he agrees with the decision not to try Officer Gorwell again.

"Joe has made some hard decisions and taken some tough stands," said Ms. Pressman.

Ms. Carey said the FOP was right in saying Mr. Curran had not been aggressive enough in the fight against crime, but neither had Mr. Bennett. Crime rose steadily during the seven years he was in the federal prosecutor's office, either as the boss or an assistant, she said.

She further noted that she has the endorsements of former U.S. attorney general Benjamin R. Civiletti and her old boss, ex-attorney general Stephen H. Sachs, and expects the backing of other people and organizations in the law enforcement community.

Mr. Smith could not be reached for comment.

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