Equal treatment among city police Officer complaints: Department acting on blacks' charges of bias in disciplinary cases.

August 27, 1996

BLACK CITY POLICE officers claim they are discriminated against by their peers in internal disciplinary cases. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is demanding action by his white police chief. But these complaints go back at least to 1992. What took the mayor so long?

Listening to him, you get the impression that until the issue recently resurfaced Mr. Schmoke truly didn't realize the extent of the problem. That type of sensitivity lapse by one of their own is what makes some African-American Baltimoreans wonder about Mr. Schmoke. And their suspicions apparently prompt him to resort to symbolic expressions like the red, black and green campaign posters last year to prove he knows from whence he came. Ironically, that upsets whites who think he's being too black.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier also until recently acted as though he didn't know black officers had a gripe. When asked by the Afro-American newspaper about complaints that black officers are terminated from the department much more frequently than whites, Mr. Frazier rather disingenuously started talking about people who were dismissed for not having the "hand strength to pull the trigger" of a service revolver. He said he had been careful to ensure there is no disparity in discipline.

But Mr. Schmoke now thinks the chief hasn't been careful enough, and Mr. Frazier must agree. In the aftermath of a City Council hearing on the issue earlier this month, the chief now says he will do better and that "discrimination will not be tolerated in any form." The city's Community Relations Commission, which in 1993 concluded there was probable cause to believe the department engaged in discriminatory practices, has been asked to work with Mr. Frazier in finding a solution.

The mayor says that will likely involve sensitivity training and promoting more African Americans to supervisory posts where they are responsible for disciplinary decisions. Mr. Schmoke says Commissioner Frazier has done a good job making the department more diverse by recruiting more blacks, women and other minorities. But the mayor also wonders why more wasn't done after the CRC made its first report. The answer is that the mayor didn't get involved until now. He should have.

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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