Strange Resignation in Annapolis

April 21, 1994

The role of Mayor Al Hopkins' administration in the unexpectedly sudden resignation of Annapolis police chief Harold M. Robbins Jr. is puzzling, to say the least.

On the one hand, Mayor Hopkins says Chief Robbins fulfilled his expectations and that he "would hire him again." But at the same time it is clear that the mayor wanted Chief Robbins out.

Rumors to that effect have been circulating for months in Annapolis, and Mr. Hopkins himself said the decision for the chief to go was "mutual." The fact that Chief Robbins will be getting generous severance benefits indicates that his departure was a negotiated contract buyout, not a matter of his quitting on his own.

Why didn't Mayor Hopkins want the chief to serve out the remainder of his 5-year contract? He isn't saying, which is unfair both to Chief Robbins and the people of Annapolis, who have a keen interest in their police department and the right to know why they will be paying two police chiefs through the end of the year.

Chief Robbins may have had his shortcomings, but he was a competent administrator who made a number of improvements and one bold, if largely unpopular, move -- creating five corporal posts and filling them with minorities. The Hopkins administration gave this action its blessing, though it let Chief Robbins twist in the wind when opposition arose from within the ranks.

Unfortunately, the promotions had the opposite effect of what Chief Robbins intended, exacerbating longstanding morale problems rather than curing them. The chief was not popular with rank-and-file officers, largely because it was his way to make do with the resources given him rather than lead the charge for better pay and other issues near and dear to the force.

Perhaps Chief Robbins' inability to solve the morale dilemma is why the mayor wanted him to leave. It would make some sense, given the seriousness of high turnover and discontent within the department.

But why doesn't Mayor Hopkins explain that, if this is the case? As it is, one gets the feeling there is more behind this so-called resignation than meets the eye. If a police chief does his job well enough that his boss says he would hire him all over again, it makes no sense to force him out at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to taxpayers. If there is legitimate cause to remove him, the public has the right to know.

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