Homicide squad won't rotate with other police Union wants language on shifts to stay in pact

March 27, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier is exempting homicide detectives and bomb technicians from his controversial rotation policy for up to a year, and may consider doing the same for other specialized squads.

The partial delay is to ensure that some units are not depleted by a large shift of officers at one time. And a decision on moving other officers has been delayed because of a contract dispute that erupted last week.

Union officials are upset that the Police Department wants language governing the rotation policy excluded from the contract, which was agreed to in January and was to be signed last week. A federal arbitrator is to be called in to resolve the issue.

Frazier first delayed implementing rotation two months ago when he realized that too many officers in some units were eligible to be moved. Nearly one-third of the 56 detectives in the homicide unit have been there at least four years and were up for rotation.

Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman, said the decision does not mean homicide detectives or others are permanently exempt. Other squads that could be temporarily exempted have not been chosen.

"There is some careful consideration with regard to certain units or personnel in the department with regard to immediate rotation so that the quality of the service to the city is not negatively impacted," Weinhold said.

Frazier's plan to rotate officers drew immediate criticism when he announced it three years ago.

Most of the complaints came from members of the homicide unit, considered a plum assignment where overtime can easily be accumulated. Detectives complained that it takes years to become seasoned and that moving every four years would impede them in solving cases. Several left the department, saying they were forced out by the impending rotations.

But Frazier, who wants officers to be able to perform a variety of jobs, said many officers in specialized units had become entrenched and there was little opportunity for minority officers or those without connections to advance.

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said he has heard different scenarios from Frazier's office, including possible exemptions for detectives assigned to the state's attorney's office and members of the commissioner's staff.

Last week, McLhinney refused to sign a contract -- which is to take effect July 1 and calls for a 3.5 percent raise for officers -- because language governing the rotation policy had been excluded.

Weinhold said the dispute was over a "legal technicality" and that the commissioner "hopes that these legal issues can be resolved very quickly."

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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