Mayor to act fast on police study Schmoke vows to back probe of racial bias in discipline

September 20, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday promised quick results from an investigation into complaints that black Baltimore police officers are treated more harshly than their white colleagues when charged with misconduct.

Enough evidence exists "for us to launch a major investigative effort," the mayor said, responding to a series of complaints by black officers who spoke out last month at a City Hall hearing.

The recently begun investigation by the city's Community Relations Commission, a group appointed by the mayor to resolve discrimination complaints, could take several weeks. But Schmoke said he has met with the police chief and commission head "so we could expedite the process of review."

Alvin O. Gillard, commission director, said his 15-member agency is conducting "an inquiry into some of the practices and procedures of the Police Department" but is not evaluating individual cases. "That would be an awesome undertaking," he said.

While the review is under way, police officials have postponed departmental trial board cases in which firing is recommended for an officer accused of misconduct. Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has acknowledged problems exist and has promised to ensure equal discipline for equal infractions.

The investigation stems from an August hearing in which several current and former black officers accused Frazier of tolerating a double-standard in how black and white officers are disciplined.

It was prompted by a report by former Officer Donald Reid, who retired last month. The report, which Reid undertook on his own initiative, found that of the 139 officers fired since 1985, 99 were black and 37 were white. Blacks make up 35 percent of the 3,100-member department.

Reid's lengthy report circulated in the department before Frazier was hired in 1994. Three years ago, Reid wrote to then-Commissioner Edward V. Woods and complained that nothing was being done.

Schmoke said the commission made recommendations about training midlevel managers in 1993 and 1994. "This time, I'm not sure what types of remedies Mr. Gillard might recommend," he said. "I know that he is taking a fresh look at it."

Officer Gary McLhinney, the Fraternal Order of Police president who said last month that black and white officers have no confidence in the disciplinary system, said it too often "takes outside pressure to get anything done in this Police Department."

Gillard said yesterday that the Police Department is cooperating, but he said officials have been slow in forwarding some documents.

"We hoped that the process would have moved along quicker than it has," he said. "Documents have been forwarded. We are still waiting for some. Certainly that will impact on the length of our inquiry."

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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