Police leadership crumbling Racism charges: Department's progress will be undermined unless mayor acts now.

September 03, 1997

THERE IS LITTLE reason to believe Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and Col. Ronald L. Daniel can settle their differences. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke must therefore take appropriate action to ensure the continued success of the police department. Crime is down. There have been 40 fewer homicides -- 199 as of Monday, compared with 239 on the same date in 1996. That progress must not be sacrificed to indecision.

The mayor's earlier unwillingness to act was understandable. He got the two antagonists to shake hands in April and agree to resolve allegations by Mr. Daniel that the commissioner is racially insensitive. More than three months later, however, the public discovers very little has changed. In a deposition taken Aug. 1 in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former officer, Mr. Daniel still calls Mr. Frazier a "racist."

The department is dividing into camps. The leadership of Commissioner Frazier is being undermined. Charges that black officers are routinely discriminated against in disciplinary cases has already had dire consequences. All disciplinary actions have been placed on hold. Thus an officer who otherwise might have been suspended for an earlier gun violation instead returned to active duty, and he fatally shot a man with a knife outside Lexington Market.

Mr. Frazier suspended Colonel Daniel for insubordination in April when he heard that the colonel had accused him of being racist. The suspension was quickly overturned by the mayor, who hoped the two law officers could work things out. But that has not happened. The department's highest-ranking black officer has made it clear that he does not believe he can work with Commissioner Frazier.

Mr. Daniel quit an advisory committee on racism in June, saying police lawyers were withholding information and that the environment was hostile. The Community Relations Committee reported several weeks later that progress was being made despite the colonel's withdrawal, but the panel said the department did have discrimination problems that were a long way from being solved.

If the mayor believes Mr. Frazier has been fair with black officers, he must say that and make sure Mr. Daniel cannot undermine the commissioner. But if Mr. Schmoke believes the colonel is right, he must get rid of Mr. Frazier. Either way, the time to act is now; before racial divisions within the department bring it to ruin.

Pub Date: 9/03/97

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