City NAACP tempers criticism of Frazier's police transfers

August 05, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore NAACP softened its criticism of Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier yesterday but said it still wants to meet with him over his decision to transfer three black district commanders.

"It's not as bad as we thought it was," Rodney Orange, president of the group, said after learning details of sweeping changes that were announced Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, at a City Hall news conference yesterday morning, backed the commissioner. The mayor, who hired Mr. Frazier late last year, said he knew about the transfers two weeks ago and supported the moves.

On Wednesday, Mr. Frazier transferred commanders of the Eastern, Western, Northwestern, Northern and Southern districts. He also announced the retirement of one major and two colonels, including the department's highest ranking woman officer.

As a result of the shake-up -- which included naming two blacks as district commanders -- the citywide number of black district commanders will slip from four to three.

Before the transfers and retirements were announced, Mr. Orange and George N. Buntin, the city NAACP's executive director, expressed outrage over the moves. Mr. Buntin charged that the police commissioner had reneged on a promise to give blacks a larger role in the department.

But yesterday, Mr. Orange said the group's concerns have been eased.

"Some of the information that we had was incorrect," Mr. Orange said. He added that Sam Ringgold, the police department's chief spokesman, "was good in explaining to us what happened and why."

Mayor Schmoke said he had been concerned about misinformation since hearing rumors in one community that three majors were being fired.

"I know that some of the transfers involve the promotion of African-American officers," the mayor said. "I'm not sure Mr. Buntin was aware of that when he made his comments. I think the moves the commissioner made are going to be well-received in the neighborhoods."

Mr. Orange said he wants to meet with Mr. Frazier. He said his organization is worried that the number of black district commanders has decreased and that the three black former commanders will no longer be in high-profile positions.

"They are going to be buried somewhere," Mr. Orange said. "We want people put in the community and in positions in the department where they can help this city."

In an interview Wednesday night, Mr. Frazier said he made the transfers partly as part of his rotation policy -- district commanders, he feels, can last about three years -- and because he thinks some of the majors are better suited for other jobs.

Maj. Alvin Winkler has been commander of the Eastern District for eight years, and Mr. Frazier said it is time he moved on, pointing to that job's high burn-out rate. Major Winkler will take over the Traffic Division and will be the major events coordinator.

Mr. Frazier said Maj. Barry Powell, who has commanded the Northwestern District for one year and who will be in charge of the property division, will oversee a $32 million expansion of police headquarters this fall.

Maj. Victor Gregory, the Western District commander who will be moved to the neighborhood patrol bureau, "is an excellent administrator," Mr. Frazier said, adding that he will be in an executive position.

Major Gregory could not be reached for comment. Majors Winkler and Powell said Wednesday that they are looking forward to their new jobs.

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