Political Payback?

January 16, 1995

The transfer of a popular police corporal away from the community policing program that he helped create brings into question the motives and judgment of the man vying to be Anne Arundel County's next police chief.

Last week, Acting Chief Robert Beck decided to move Cpl. Gordon March from the Youth Activities Program in Freetown Village, a public housing project in northern Anne Arundel, and place the 25-year police veteran in the patrol division of the southern county precinct farthest from his home.

Some residents in Freetown Village speculate that the chief's motives were political; Corporal March is a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee and was an active supporter of County Executive John G. Gary's political rival, Theodore J. Sophocleus, during last fall's election.

Acting Chief Beck denies politics were a motive and says he moved Corporal March because the corporal was using his position to further other ambitions, refusing to share recognition with other officers and making promises he couldn't keep.

While we recognize the prerogative of a police chief to move his men, sending Corporal March to patrol the cornfields of the southernmost part of the county seems both punitive and extreme.

Corporal March may have been guilty of cockiness, but he was not guilty of misconduct. He had served as a homicide and narcotics investigator before being placed in charge of the Youth Activities Program, which was designed to give youngsters alternatives to crime and drugs. His past performance evaluations were superb. And the program he helped create has been a success. Crime has dropped in both Freetown Village and Meade Village since the program was put in place.

The residents in Freetown Village are gathering a petition asking Mr. Gary to overrule his chief and return Corporal March to their community. Acting Chief Beck insinuates that Corporal March bought their devotion with gifts he gave out while overseeing the program. Indeed, Corporal March did buy eyeglasses for youngsters and paid the rent for crack addicts who were in treatment. But the chief's insinuation that the corporal bought the residents' loyalty insults the community and the corporal. Corporal March and the residents of Freetown Village deserve better treatment.

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