Judge delays ruling on Daniel's transfer Some political leaders who backed police colonel now side with Schmoke

September 06, 1997|By Peter Hermann and JoAnna Daemmrich | Peter Hermann and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A federal judge yesterday delayed until Wednesday a hearing on whether a police colonel who labeled his boss a racist can reclaim his job after being stripped of his command by the mayor.

U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg wanted time to review legal precedent before the feud that began in April and has engulfed the Police Department moves into his courtroom, said Frank Laws, a lawyer representing Col. Ronald L. Daniel.

Meanwhile, several political leaders who backed Daniel when he was briefly suspended in April for questioning Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier's commitment to ending racism are now supporting Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, who four months ago said East Baltimore had "some serious misgivings about Frazier," said yesterday that it has become clear the feud is more of a personal clash than a barometer of police race relations.

"It's just two people who obviously can't get along," said McFadden, an Eastside Democrat who chairs the city's Senate delegation. "The mayor has indicated he wants his police officers fighting crime and not one another."

Frazier did not announce a replacement for Daniel as expected yesterday. Schmoke ordered Daniel transferred Thursday from the Field Operations Bureau, where he ran half of the city's patrol districts, to an obscure agency at City Hall that regulates grant money for fighting crime.

It was unclear where Daniel will report Monday. Schmoke's office said Thursday that the transfer was to take place immediately.

His new job is at the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice, a small agency that manages crime-fighting efforts financed with state and federal grants. The agency has a $585,616 budget and a staff of five.

Laws continued yesterday to call the transfer a demotion in retaliation for a sworn deposition Daniel gave Aug. 1 in a discrimination suit in which he called Frazier a racist. City Solicitor Otho M. Thompson declined to comment on the lawsuit yesterday. "We'll do our talking in court," he said.

Daniel still has many supporters, including the police union, which believes he was punished for speaking out while under subpoena. The colonel's lawyers point out in their petition to halt the transfer that city officials knew of his comments in early August but took no action until the deposition was leaked to the media.

After Daniel's comments became public, Schmoke condemned the colonel, said he had undermined his ability to lead and said it is impossible for Frazier to run the Police Department with a defiant commander.

Fourth District Councilwoman Sheila Dixon said Daniel should count himself lucky to still be on the city payroll.

"I think some of us would have been out of a job," she said. "When you look at it realistically as far as what has taken place and just protocol in personnel issues, you can't help think that."

Fifth District Councilwoman Helen L. Holton had questioned Frazier's response to a report issued last year confirming a pattern of racial discrimination in the discipline of police officers. But she said she considered the force to have a military-style chain of command that Daniel had breached.

"Everyone has opinions, but I think you either are part of the team and stay and change to make things different, or you're not part of the team, and then you should go elsewhere," she said. "Personally, I like Frazier. In the dealings I've had with him, I don't perceive him to be a racist. Yes, there are a lot of problems, but if there's headway being made, then you don't escalate an issue.

"If Daniel was making these allegations, and a majority of black officers were taking up a banner behind him, I would think all these people can't be wrong," she added. "But it's not, so you have to think it's the relationship between Frazier and Daniel."

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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