Program expands officers' authority Lieutenants get more duties in 2 Baltimore districts

June 24, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's police commissioner, in a trial effort to give more authority to middle managers and increase their accountability to the public, has put lieutenants in two districts in charge of patrol areas 24 hours a day.

The move puts greater responsibility on the officers, who now must know what is happening in their assigned neighborhoods at all times -- not just during an eight-hour shift.

Eastern District Lt. Jay Fisher, in charge of communities around Johns Hopkins Hospital, said he likes his new duties, though he frequently is called to work from home at odd hours.

"If you talk to Jay Fisher during the 8-to-4 shift and then you have another problem at midnight, you will still get Jay Fisher," the lieutenant said. "This way, we get to know our people."

Under the system still used in most station houses, lieutenants rotate command of the district on each of the three work shifts, meaning problems not dealt with by one commander are passed to the next.

The Sector Management program, which started in January, refers to how the city's nine police districts are divided. The concept is being tried in the Eastern District -- which has three sectors -- and in the Southern District -- with four. It is modeled after programs in Dallas and Austin, Texas.

"You've got to be into this," Fisher said. "It's not an eight- to 10-hour day. It's a 12-hour day. That is what it takes to do this job."

Southern District Lt. Barry Baker, who commands his district's major crimes unit, said the program has cut the number of citizen complaints. "When you have a problem and you call in, it doesn't get forgotten about," he said. "That to me is the biggest advantage."

Lieutenants are called in whenever a major crime, such as a shooting, occurs on their turf. They also must attend community meetings and are expected to know religious and neighborhood leaders, and keep track of any other problem or development.

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said it's not known whether the program will be used elsewhere in the city. But sector management helps fulfill Frazier's goal of decentralizing the command structure.

He said the plan "is to push accountability and responsibility down to the lowest possible level. You don't run a Police Department from the eighth floor of headquarters. You run a Police Department from the community."

Frazier said commanders are being watched closely.

"This is the way to test their leadership skills at the lieutenant level," he said. "If you are not a good sector commander, you are not going to be a candidate for a district commander."

Pub Date: 6/24/96

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