State parole and probation officials run an agency where racial slurs are tolerated, blacks routinely are turned down for transfers and promotions, and other questionable practices occur, members of the NAACP's Baltimore branch charged yesterday.
A small group picketed briefly outside a local office of the state Division of Parole and Probation to protest what they called racist personnel practices.
The protest at the East Mount Royal Avenue office grew out of an investigation by the General Assembly's Black Caucus, which held a series of hearings this year to air allegations of racism in state government.
"We are here today to serve notice to the director that we are watching these cases and his actions," said William E. Green, chairman of the political action committee of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Behind him, members held signs calling for parole and probation chief W. Roland Knapp to be fired.
Agency officials would not respond to specific allegations. Spokeswoman Maxine Eldridge said the NAACP had not brought its concerns formally to Mr. Knapp or to Bishop L. Robinson, state secretary for Public Safety and Correctional Services.
"Mr. Knapp and the secretary have worked throughout the year and probably beyond that to address any concerns that employees may have. Mr. Robinson's position has always been that he would not tolerate any mistreatment of staff and that's the same position Mr. Knapp has," she said.
But Mr. Green said the NAACP had received reports that:
* Agents in the Dundalk office had been ordered to request arrest warrants for black offenders who violated parole or probation, but only court summonses for white offenders in the same situation.
* White agents in the Glen Burnie office called black agents "porch monkeys."
* Supervisors at the East Mount Royal Avenue office denied a black agent's request for a transfer, but granted a similar request from a white agent within two hours.
Katharine Goeller, a labor relations representative for the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents a number of parole and probation agents, also said a group of agents in the Prince George's County office had sued over promotion practices. The suit charges that the office in that majority-black county had not had a black supervisor in 25 years.
Mr. Green said that Mr. Knapp and Mr. Robinson had been made aware of problems. The officials promised to "look into" the complaints but so far have done nothing, Mr. Green said.
Ms. Eldridge said she was unaware of such a meeting; neither Mr. Robinson nor Mr. Knapp was available for comment yesterday.
The Legislative Black Caucus report on its hearings detailed complaints of racism in about 17 public agencies, but did not specifically mention the parole and probation agency.
Mr. Green said the NAACP targeted the agency to get the attention of Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening, and to highlight the continuing dispute over the black officer's transfer. Because the agency supervises about 95,000 offenders across Maryland, its functions are among the most important in state government, he said.
"If they cannot have control in-house, that says a lot about public safety," Mr. Green said.