Mayor, council assailed for inaction on civilian police review board

March 11, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A member of two Annapolis watchdog groups sharply criticized Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and the city council last night for ignoring pleas from the black community to create a civilian review board to handle charges of police misconduct.

After a protest march on City Hall by community residents in January, council members were presented with a petition -- signed by more than 300 residents -- for a review board.

City leaders dismissed the petition, saying that a board would undermine the authority of Joseph S. Johnson, the city's first black police chief.

Since then, tension between the Police Department and the black community has worsened. Police came under fire last month when a 38-year-old black man was shot to death by another black man as he walked out of a friend's front door in the Bywater community. Black leaders criticized police and city officials for not doing enough to prevent "black on black" violence.

"Mayor Hopkins, you promised a response to our petition," Robert H. Eades said last night. He represents the African American Unity Coalition and the Black Political Forum. "It is now over two months and you have yet to respond to our petition.

"How many more black men must die?" Eades said to a packed council chamber. "You and the city council have a responsibility to address our concerns. I don't understand why the city has not responded to a call to stop the violence."

Tension has been building since the city's handling of a police shooting on Sept. 1 in the Robinwood housing community. Citizens were outraged when Officer David W. Garcia was cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting death of an 18-year-old black man and the wounding of a 19-year-old black man.

City leaders, including longtime civil rights activist Alderman Carl O. Snowden, have expressed concerns about a review board.

"A civilian review board, whether it was intentional or not, would be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the chief, and I think a majority of the council supports him," Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who is likely to run for mayor, said in January.

Eades also invited the council to attend a meeting with black leaders tonight at the First Baptist Church in downtown Annapolis to discuss community problems.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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