Targeting corrupt police Ethics squad: Baltimore's police chief is taking the right steps to get rid of bad officers.

November 04, 1995

POLICE OFFICERS are just like the rest of us. Some are good, some are bad. The bad officers need to be seen for what they are and removed from positions of public trust. That's what Chief Thomas C. Frazier is trying to do. In addition to the regular internal affairs unit, he is creating a special ethics squad that will conduct undercover sting operations to help reveal which officers are using their badges to hide criminal activity.

Many officers are not thrilled with the chief's idea. They think they have enough to do investigating real crimes without having to worry about whether the drug deal they're busting up is a set-up to see which of them is corrupt. But such measures are justified. That Baltimore hasn't had a major police scandal in recent years doesn't mean its force is squeaky clean.

The arrest Monday of a veteran Baltimore detective who allegedly robbed a Glen Burnie bank so he could make his mortgage payments is just one example of an officer apparently succumbing to temptation. There have been many less dramatic episodes. The two officers arrested in April for stealing money from a drug dealer probably aren't the only ones in the department to have done something like that. They got caught. How many have not?

The image of police officers as champions of the people has been seriously eroded in the 1990s. Episodes of police abuse of authority include many more incidents than the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. In Philadelphia earlier this year a black undercover officer was beaten by white officers in a drug raid even after she had identified herself.

Six Atlanta officers were charged with corruption in September for stealing cash during searches and taking protection money from cocaine dealers. Sixteen New York City officers were indicted in May on brutality, perjury and theft charges. A New Orleans officer has been accused of murdering her partner during a robbery allegedly committed while she was on patrol. And the list goes on.

Too frequently in this nation there have been signs that %o Americans so distrust the police that they either refuse to cooperate with investigating officers or decide to take justice into their own hands. The police must win back the public's respect. For that to happen, departments must root out the bad officers within their ranks. Chief Frazier is attempting to do that with his ethics squad. He deserves support.

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