Mayor Orders An End To Feud

He Tells Police Chief, Top Black Officer To Resolve Differences

Some Still Want Chief Fired

Frazier, Daniel Asked To Draft Plan To Resolve Racial Discord On Force

April 26, 1997|By Peter Hermann and JoAnna Daemmrich | Peter Hermann and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A resolute Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke ordered his police chief and top deputy yesterday to end a feud that has exposed deep racial divisions and shaken confidence in the leadership of the city's crime-fighting force.

Flanked at a news conference by the warring officers, the mayor gave Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and Col. Ronald L. Daniel 90 days to resolve their differences, "so that we can move ahead with important issues of fighting crime."

Schmoke's decision to try to reconcile the rift instead of forcing the chief to resign astonished and disappointed a number of political and community leaders.

"The mayor had a unique opportunity to really bring some harmony to this," said state Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a Democrat who represents West Baltimore. "What has happened absolutely does not. I said it today -- Frazier has to go."

The leadership crisis began Wednesday when Frazier accused Daniel -- the highest-ranking African-American officer -- of insubordination for suggesting at a meeting of black officers that the chief step down if he cannot end the racial disparity.

The commissioner said Daniel's remarks were tantamount to advocating "an overthrow of the government."

Yesterday, the mayor summoned both men to his office and closed the doors. Forty-five minutes later, the three emerged -- the mayor determined, the others chastened.

"We want to stop talking black and white in the Police Department and start talking blue," Schmoke said. "The citizens don't ask for a white cop or a black cop. They don't talk about the race of the commissioner or the colonel. They want them all working together as a blue team fighting crime in the city."

The mayor then announced he was ordering Frazier to immediately stop his investigation of Daniel, saying Daniel had the constitutional right to speak out at the April 17 meeting of the Vanguard Justice Society, which represents half the 1,100 black officers.

He also told both men to draft a plan within 90 days to end the racial disparities over discipline and address other long-standing complaints over policies in the 3,200-member force.

Schmoke made clear he did not want to rehash the nasty dispute, saying he did not even press for new details. But he was clearly angry at having to mediate the high-profile fracas just as violent crime dropped significantly for the first time since he became mayor a decade ago.

"I said if there are any apologies, we would apologize to the citizens of Baltimore for having a problem occur now, at a time when we should be celebrating," the mayor said.

While intended to quickly resolve the matter, Schmoke's actions leave troubling questions. Chief among them is how loyalists of each side can work together. Two district commanders, Majs. Wendell M. France and Barry Powell, are in open revolt against Frazier.

Some of the mayor's allies in the City Council offered scant support and voiced doubt that Schmoke's order would resolve the deep divisions in the force.

"I'm not happy with it," said 4th District Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch, one of six council members who usually support the mayor and stood behind him in the ceremonial room as he declared his "highest respect" and confidence in both Frazier and Daniel.

"While the two gentlemen may be able to work together, I don't know if it will filter down to the ranks," Welch added.

Fifth District Councilwoman Helen Holton went into the mayor's office believing he was about to announce the end of the commissioner's tenure.

She left shaking her head, saying, "Quite frankly, I'm in shock right now. I don't know. The mayor is the CEO of the city, and as he said, he's in charge. But what concerns me is those officers in the ranks -- is this enough for them? It's easy to forgive, but it is not as easy to forget."

But others praised the mayor and said an internal police dispute, even at the highest levels, should not overwhelm crime-fighting efforts.

"I commend the mayor," said the Rev. Melvin B. Tuggle II, president of Clergy United for the Renewal of East Baltimore (CURE), who predicted the uproar would fade because the two men either would agree to get along or one would resign.

"[Schmoke] was in a Catch-22," Tuggle said. "You can't get rid of a person when crime is on the decrease, yet you realize there's a concern with equality and promotion in your Police Department. Sometimes, the best way to handle it is to let it be resolved from within."

For the mayor, Frazier's suspension of Daniel and the uproar that followed created the most dramatic, high-profile personnel crisis in Schmoke's 10-year tenure.

It dominated the attention of the city's police and political establishments and focused public attention on long-standing complaints about racial disparities within the police force.

Schmoke had to make a decision quickly. He spent Thursday night seeking the advice of trusted allies and had decided his course of action well before Frazier and Daniel arrived at City Hall yesterday afternoon.

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