Police set goal for more arrests Underachievers on Baltimore force urged to improve

November 05, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Alarmed that some officers on his force haven't arrested anyone in up to two years, Baltimore's police commissioner is ordering his troops to raise performance levels to get offenders off the streets.

District commanders responded by compiling lists of officers who have made fewer than 10 arrests in 18 months and then threatening them with being transferred or disciplined if they don't improve.

The commander of the Northwestern District, Maj. Errol L. Dutton, issued a one-page memo recently that sets a goal for officers to arrest at least two adults each week. Officers who fail will be given the task of serving outstanding arrest warrants "to bring their stats up," according to the memo obtained by The Sun.

The wording in the memo comes close to establishing a quota system for arrests and even warns officers of an "unannounced standard" they must meet.

Dutton's orders target mostly officers who fill in as supervisors or drive the prisoner transport wagons. In effect, the orders are a warning that even those who are not normally in a position to arrest offenders must be more aggressive.

"A number of individuals feel as though, because they are in certain positions, it means they don't have to arrest anyone and enforce the law," said Sam Ringgold, a department spokesman. "That is not the case.

"If you are sworn and you are on the street, there are expectations," Ringgold said. "There are individuals who hadn't locked up anyone in two years. Is the department getting its money's worth?"

Police officials say the new initiative is not a quota.

Ringgold said that he could see "how the wording [of Dutton's memo] might be misinterpreted," but he said "there is no quota for arrests. It's not about stats, it's about bringing crime down."

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said he first heard of the problem several months ago during in-service training classes, when a midnight-shift officer in charge of a lockup told him that "there are some officers who lock someone up every single night and some guys who haven't locked up anybody for two years."

That prompted a department-wide study that Frazier said confirmed the problem. The numbers were not available yesterday. The chief said "there is something wrong" when a city officer doesn't make a bust in two years. "Everybody can see something on midnights, even if it's a drunk driver," he said.

Frazier said the goal is to deal with "substandard performance. I don't think it's unreasonable what we're doing. It's a productivity measure. I don't think we need to make any apology for honest analysis of a police officer's work ethic."

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the city police union, was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment. The vice president, Officer Brian A. May, declined to comment because he had not seen the memo.

The memo says that Northwestern District lieutenants compiled a list of officers who made fewer than 10 arrests from Jan. 1, 1995, to June 30, 1996. The first paragraph reads: "While some of these officers may have made quality arrests with juveniles or traffic-related arrests, we need to insure that in the next few weeks, they are given ample opportunity to arrest adults."

Dutton tells his supervisors: "To increase the officers' arrest productivity, assign those officers who are not reaching the goal of at least two adult arrests per week to warrant service duty to bring their stats up."

Dutton also wrote that officers driving the transport wagons or filling in for supervisors "did not concern themselves with arrest stats. This misleading perception is to be discouraged an officer's assignment's value will be rated by whether or not that officer in that position arrested anyone in a specified time frame."

In an interview, Dutton said he didn't mean to establish a quota system and said that searching out the 42,000 people wanted on outstanding arrest warrants is a key to making streets safer.

"It was to bring up the productivity level to at least a common level so that everyone was equally doing their share," Dutton said. "I don't want individuals to arrest anyone on pretext. I want officers to go out and arrest offenders."

Maj. Bert L. Shirey, commander of the Northeastern District, said he found officers on the list giving a "variety of reasons" for low arrest counts, including being on medical leave or filling in as supervisors.

Making those arrests, police say, shouldn't be difficult.

"I know you don't do anything around here that smacks of quotas," Shirey said. "It makes you look bad. But I find it hard to believe that with the crime we have, officers can't work 40 hours and not make an arrest."

Pub Date: 11/05/96

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