Officers Ask Ouster Of Police Chief

Frazier Suspends And Then Reinstates Top Black On Force

Baltimore Mayor Steps In

Dispute Erupts After Colonel Daniel Criticized Chief

April 24, 1997|By Peter Hermann and John Rivera | Peter Hermann and John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier faced a revolt by some black officers and calls for his ouster yesterday after he suspended the department's highest-ranking black police commander and accused him of insubordination.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke intervened late last night and pursuaded Frazier to rescind the suspension of Col. Ronald L. Daniel, said the mayor's spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman. The three are scheduled to meet tomorrow.

Coleman said the mayor had been briefed over the weekend by Frazier on an investigation into Daniel's alleged insubordination. But the mayor was not told Daniel was to be suspended.

"I think that the mayor was more than a little troubled," Coleman said, adding that the investigation will continue.

Schmoke acted after talking to Frazier and Daniel separately last night and after meeting with a group representing black police officers, who demanded that Schmoke immediately reinstate Daniel.

Daniel, in a meeting with fellow black officers last week, questioned the chief's commitment to ending racial disparity in the department and allegedly called for Frazier's removal.

Frazier was told of Daniel's comments and is accusing him of insubordination and violating several departmental rules, including one that prohibits officers from participating in a "seditious, rebellious or reactionary movement."

But Daniel's suspension triggered a rebellion as 13 members of the Vanguard Justice Society -- including high-ranking Majs. Wendell M. France and Barry Powell -- asked Schmoke during a two-hour meeting last night to fire the chief.

Schmoke, who recently called Frazier "the best police commissioner in the country," initially said last night through his spokesman, Coleman, "I am extremely concerned and more than troubled by the current situation." Coleman later called The Sun to say the suspension had been rescinded.

Daniel said it was premature to speak publicly about his matter.

Frazier last night denied that he took action against Daniel because of his criticism on racial issues.

"I was contacted over the weekend by African-American commanders who alleged that [Daniel] had questioned my ethics and motives and advocated my removal from office," Frazier said. "I see that commentary as disruptive to the efficient operation of the department and our ability to fight crime."

The commissioner said the alleged comments by Daniel get "in the way of fighting crime and I won't tolerate it."

A top police commander who supports Frazier said last night there was an organized "coup attempt" by a small group of high-ranking officers "to overthrow the police commissioner." The source quoted a black commander who told the chief: "It sickens me to my stomach to hear talk of an uprising."

Sgt. Teresa E. Cunningham, president of Vanguard, which represents about 600 of the force's 1,100 black officers, said Frazier is sending an ominous message to black officers -- that if they say anything he perceives to undermine him, "he will literally whack your head off."

At the same time Frazier moved against Daniel, Frazier promoted a black major to colonel, named a female major to head the homicide unit and moved another black commander, Col. Robert Smith, to temporarily fill Daniel's position.

But critics termed the changes a smoke screen to blunt criticism of Daniel's suspension. Cunningham called the changes "bogus promotions."

Daniel, who is chief of the Field Operations Bureau and in charge of 2,500 of the department's 3,200 officers, initially was placed on administrative leave with pay. Frazier declined to talk about specifics of the probe into Daniel's comments, which the department's Internal Investigation Division is conducting. He said it would be over in "a matter of days."

Possible disciplinary action includes demotion or termination.

Daniel's police powers were to remain intact during the 12-hour suspension, but he was stripped of his departmental car and ordered to stay away from his office at police headquarters until the matter was resolved.

At a news conference attended by Vanguard and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, France -- who heads the National Black Officers Association -- called the action against Daniel a "very egregious act.

"This is probably one of the most popular commanders in this agency, for most whites and blacks," said France, who commands the Eastern District station. "And to single him out to silence the rest of us commanders I think takes us way way back in time."

France said "the city deserves a little better than what we've gotten here, and I think that I'm somewhat unnerved that the senior commander, the black commander of this department, is summarily dismissed for sharing his comments with a group of African-American commanders. I think that in itself speaks volumes for where we are."

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