Retiring Officers Don't Hold Grudges

June 03, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Although his days as a Baltimore police officer are coming to an end, Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Zotos has nothing bad to say about the new boss who is sweeping out the old guard at headquarters.

"It's a different city than when I started out as a foot patrolman at North and Greenmount back in 1959," said Mr. Zotos, 62, one of the three deputy commissioners who Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier asked this week to retire.

"I've seen the violence and the guns on the street increasing. It's time to make way for new ideas and younger people," he said. "I think the new commissioner has got some good plans of action. As for me, I don't want to wait around and have to be carried out of the office."

Mr. Frazier, who came here in January from San Jose, Calif., is making sweeping changes in the 2,900-member force, which has come under fire for failing to curb Baltimore crime. Most of the new commissioner's targets have been high-ranking commanders under his embattled predecessor, Edward V. Woods.

"[Mr. Woods] took a lot of criticism, and I think some of it was undue," said Mr. Zotos, referring to complaints about Mr. Woods' leadership. "Given the resources he had, he did an adequate job. He could have used a few more men on the street."

Mr. Frazier announced Wednesday that he was eliminating the deputy commissioner position -- the department's second-highest rank -- as well as the ranks of captain and lieutenant colonel. The three deputy commissioners, Melvin C. McQuay, Eugene Tanzymore and Mr. Zotos will retire on June 30.

The moves will improve communication between police leaders and the community, and will cut salary costs, according to the commissioner. Just eliminating the deputy commissioner positions will save the department approximately $300,000 annually in salaries and benefits -- enough to pay for about 10 patrolmen, he said.

As part of the reorganization, the commissioner promoted Capt. Gary G. Lembach, Capt. John F. Meeks and Lt. Odis L. Sistrunk Jr. to major and made 26 other promotions in the lower ranks.

Mr. Zotos and Mr. Tanzymore spoke of their departures in a philosophical way, saying they understood the commissioner's view that epidemic crime calls for tough police management. Mr. McQuay did not return phone calls.

Mr. Tanzymore, 51, who is chief of the Neighborhood Patrol Bureau and has a long history in the patrol division, said today's police administrator must deal with problems in different ways.

"Today, you have to reach further than just crime itself," said Mr. Tanzymore, a 32-year veteran. "There are things like community policing, the breakdown of the family structure and problems with the youth. You've got to have a holistic approach to it all."

He added, "I always understood there would be an ending, an Omega. For some of the guys in my class at the police academy, their ending was a bullet in the head, killed in the line of duty. I'd rather go out this way than that way."

Mr. Zotos, who heads the human resources/services bureau, said he had informed Mr. Frazier several months ago that he planned to retire soon, having completed his 35th year as a police officer.

For 16 years, he served as commander of the executive protection unit and supervised security for then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. But he started as a foot patrolman on Greenmount Avenue, and saw drugs steadily move into the forefront of Baltimore crime.

"In 1967, there were 600 arrests for narcotics. Last year, we had 15,000," Mr. Zotos said.

"It's had a great impact on police work, especially with all the guns. There's more guns on the street than ever."

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