Breaking with past city policy, Baltimore's police commissioner urged state lawmakers yesterday to pass a bill that would allow state troopers to make traffic stops in the city -- authority now prohibited by Maryland law.
Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier told the House Judiciary Committee that the city in recent years has had successful partnerships with state troopers during criminal investigations. Now he wants to establish a "memorandum of understanding" with the state police to allow them to exercise limited traffic enforcement as well.
Those enforcement powers would include allowing state troopers to make traffic stops on their way to and from work -- or near their homes if they live in the city. They also would be able to stop motorists along such major thoroughfares as Interstate 83, Frazier said.
"It's just good common sense," Frazier said. "The officers are there witnessing these events. People look at them and say, 'Go stop that guy.' They don't know the trooper doesn't have that authority."
The reversal of the city's position is in part the result of continuing negotiations between the city and the Glendening administration. Frazier and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke have been meeting with Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Col. David B. Mitchell, state police superintendent, in hopes of developing a city-state partnership against crime.
The commissioner and the mayor had some reluctance initially because of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's ill-fated state police raid on The Block three years ago. During the preceding investigation, two state troopers allegedly had sex with a prostitute and a third allegedly shared a hotel room with a potential subject of the investigation.
In addition, there were concerns about turf issues between city and state officers and about allegations of harassment of black motorists by state troopers during traffic stops elsewhere.
"Obviously there have been issues in the past," Townsend said. "What we want to do is have a good relationship between the city and the state."
The traffic enforcement bill, sponsored by Del. Timothy D. Murphy, a Baltimore Democrat, would amend a state statute that prevents state troopers from enforcing Maryland's motor vehicle laws in the city -- even if the officer witnesses a motorist breaking the law.
Murphy has fought for years to have the 15-year-old statute amended, but the measure failed because of the turf and community relation concerns.
Such concerns could pose some problems for the bill as it works its way through the General Assembly, but Murphy believes the measure's time has come. There are 106 state troopers who live in the city, including 61 who are African-American, according to state statistics.
"It doesn't make sense to tie the hands of troopers in Baltimore City," Murphy said.
In addition to the traffic enforcement, other initiatives the city and state are discussing include "hot spot" policing, under which a city officer and a state trooper would ride in the same patrol car to fight violent crime in the city.
"As long as the superintendent of state police and the city police work out a joint plan, it would be fine with me," Schmoke said.
Pub Date: 3/01/97