O'Malley wants Frazier to leave Councilman lashes police commissioner for avoiding panel

February 11, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Councilman Martin O'Malley called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier yesterday, charging that the chief has ducked repeated requests to appear before his committee to answer allegations of racial discrimination in the Police Department.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, who along with O'Malley has been a frequent Frazier critic, said he would ask the council to withhold more than $1 million in federal grants to the department until the commissioner appears and responds to a Community Relations Commission report that black police officers were more likely to be fired or disciplined than their white colleagues.

"All we're asking the commissioner to do is come forward to explain his response to the commission's report," Bell said at the conclusion of last night's City Council meeting. The federal grants would provide funds to hire 30 more police officers, set up the 311 nonemergency police phone system, and provide police training and arson prevention. Appropriation bills for the funds are scheduled for a public hearing at the March 3 meeting of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, but the committee chairman said last night the bills would likely be held up.

"The message we want to sent to all department heads is we need to be dealt with and we need to be shown respect as a body. And up to this point, that has not been given to us," said Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., the budget committee chairman.

"I'm not sure that's the most prudent step to take," police spokesman Sam Ringgold told The Sun. "At a time when city dollars are tight, I think citizens will take exception to an attempt to withhold, for a minute, federal funds for more officers and for 311."

O'Malley spiced up an otherwise routine meeting when he rose after regular business and launched a blistering critique of Frazier. His resignation call comes after the Fraternal Order of Police voted last week to demand that the commissioner leave.

O'Malley voiced frustration that Frazier has failed to appear before his Legislative Investigations Committee to respond to the Community Relations Commission's November report.

After recounting several letters he has exchanged with Frazier about appearing before the council committee, O'Malley referred a letter Frazier wrote to Bell last month. In that letter, the commissioner defended a meeting he had scheduled for council members at police headquarters to discuss the report. Almost ++ no council members attended; some said it would be an illegal closed meeting.

Frazier wrote that "once our internal process of problem identification and remedy has begun, I will appear before the Legislative Investigations Committee to answer questions which the council's committee may have," O'Malley quoted from the letter.

Although O'Malley intimated in his remarks that Frazier should resign, he was more explicit after the meeting, saying Frazier had not adequately addressed the three issues he was brought in to fix: reduce homicides, close open-air drug markets and eliminate police corruption.

"I think he's demonstrated he can't do the job," said O'Malley, who has also criticized Frazier for not implementing a zero-tolerance program similar to one credited with reducing crime in New York.

Ringgold said Frazier is not ducking the council committee, but is addressing the issue of discrimination internally first.

In other business, the council's Night Life Task Force released its preliminary report, which found a viable market exists in Baltimore for after-hours clubs. But the clubs should not be located in residential areas, should be required to provide adequate security and should be governed by a board separate from the Liquor Board, it said.

The report also said the city should consider allowing bars to stay open past 2 a.m., allowing patrons to trickle out gradually. Alcohol sales, however, still would be halted at 2 a.m.

The task force was not in favor of establishing an entertainment zone for bars and nightclubs.

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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