Police chief dismisses call for his resignation City councilman accused commissioner of refusing to testify on race relations

February 12, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier dismissed a call for his resignation by a city councilman as nothing more than "grandstanding" and said yesterday that any effort to withhold Police Department funding would be a detriment to the citizenry.

Frazier's comments come after Councilman Martin O'Malley accused the commissioner of snubbing the council for refusing to testify about accusations of racism in the department's disciplinary process.

"I told [O'Malley] in person that I would come," Frazier said yesterday. "I wrote him a letter and said I would come. I think it's grandstanding to say anything other than that. He was clearly aware that I planned to testify very, very soon."

The tiff is the latest in a public dispute between Frazier, the police union and a handful of City Council members who are charging that the chief has failed to address crime, a demoralized force and complaints about race relations.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has backed Frazier, calling him among "the best police commissioners in the country."

O'Malley said yesterday that Frazier has told him since September "that he is coming very, very soon."

The 3rd District Democrat demanded that Frazier, "Give me a date. He knows that one of the reasons he has fallen down has to do with this discrimination issue."

The police commissioner is not the first department head to clash with O'Malley and snub the committee he runs.

In 1995, Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III refused to appear before the committee to answer questions about his $25.6 million no-bid housing repair program.

O'Malley tried to subpoena Henson but failed.

At the time, Henson irritated council members by saying, "I don't have time to play games with these kids."

Frazier has promised to institute reforms within the department, including changes in the discipline system and by ordering cultural diversity classes.

However, he said he wants to have a complete plan of action before he makes a council appearance.

At Monday night's hearing, City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III threatened to block approval of $1 million in federal grants to the Police Department until Frazier appears.

That would be enough money to hire 30 police officers, to set up the 311 nonemergency phone system and to provide additional training.

"I think it's uncalled for and it's to the serious detriment of the city," Frazier said of the threat. "To withhold funding is utterly irresponsible."

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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