Morale suffering under Frazier, union's survey of officers finds

March 15, 1995|By Peter Hermann and JoAnna Daemmrich | Peter Hermann and JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writers

Complaining that Baltimore's police chief is out of touch, the police officers union released a survey yesterday concluding that morale is poor and calling for the chief to be fired if conditions don't improve.

Fraternal Order of Police leaders said officers feel they get no support from city leaders. And nearly half of those surveyed said they have considered leaving the department because of Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier's policies, the leaders said.

"It's going to be harder and harder to motivate people to go out there and do their jobs if they feel nobody is supporting them. . . . You can only beat someone down for so long before they break down," said Officer Gary McLhinney, the union president.

Seventy-five percent of the respondents rated Mr. Frazier's job performance poor or fair; 22 percent rated it good; and the rest rated it excellent. More than 60 percent said morale was poor, and the same percentage said it had worsened since Mr. Frazier was hired last year.

The survey, conducted by the Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research company in Columbia, also found that 70 percent of the officers surveyed want the union to endorse City Council President Mary Pat Clarke's mayoral bid. Seven percent said they supported incumbent Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a finding that came as no surprise to top police and city officials, who called the survey a political maneuver.

The union has not endorsed a candidate for mayor, Officer McLhinney said, adding that the 16-question survey will have a major impact on that decision. Although department figures show that only a little over one-third of the 3,054 sworn officers live in Baltimore, officers can sway voters, he said.

"This is a survey of the people we rely on to reverse the tide of crime and violence in Baltimore City," Mrs. Clarke said. "Wherever they may live, they spend most of their hours on the streets of Baltimore City."

Mr. Schmoke said he supports the commissioner and is not worried about the survey results, noting that he hasn't received the union's endorsement since his first campaign for state's attorney against William Swisher in 1982. "I'm focusing on the votes of the citizens of Baltimore, and I feel very strongly that I will be re-elected," he said.

For months, the union has complained about Mr. Frazier's policies, including plans to have experienced officers rotate through other jobs.

Yesterday, the union released a list of six recommendations, including improving salaries and revamping the rotation policy. Union officials said that if Mr. Frazier does not address them within several weeks, "we will ask, most likely, that Commissioner Frazier be removed from office."

Mr. Frazier was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

His spokesman, Sam Ringgold, said the commissioner "will review the survey when he returns on Monday."

Mr. Ringgold said Mr. Frazier has updated equipment and obtained new patrol cars, and that he "went to bat" at City Hall to get officers a 5 percent raise next year.

Last month, Mr. Frazier said he had seen a copy of the survey questions -- he declined to fill out the one he was sent -- and found it "flawed." He added, "You know how it's going to turn out by reading it."

The survey covered a variety of topics. Of the 2,875 questionnaires mailed out, 1,690 were returned.

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