Daniel's transfer is justified Police turmoil: City department can't do its best with leadership at odds over race.

September 08, 1997

THE COMPARISON of a police department to a military unit is valid. The chain of command must be sacrosanct. Baltimore police Col. Ronald L. Daniel, the city's second highest-ranking police officer, had let it be known on more than one occasion that he doesn't like the way his commander operates. It was only prudent that the colonel be transferred.

Otherwise, his continued criticism of his superior threatened to bring down a command structure whose success in fighting crime must not be taken lightly.

Baltimore has not reached nirvana. Some neighborhoods are still like battlefronts, where any walk out the door may put a person's life at risk. But there has been progress. Crime statistics, including homicides, are down. The police department under the leadership of Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier deserves some credit for that. Colonel Daniel must not be allowed to undermine that leadership.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was right to have the colonel transferred to a job outside the department with the Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice. It is for the good of the force, and thus for the good of the city. The decision removes one of the highest-ranking African Americans from the police command. But it places him in a role where he can still make a significant contribution. The council has been instrumental in getting residents of city neighborhoods to fight crime together.

The mayor's logical decision, however, does not solve the complex questions that remain amid Colonel Daniel's repeated charges of racism within the Baltimore City Police Department.

Though Mr. Schmoke has stated emphatically he does not share Colonel Daniel's belief that the commissioner is racist, the mayor, too, has said there is a bias problem. His method of solving it has been unsatisfactory.

Chief Frazier worked hard to hire African-American officers and to promote those qualified to supervisory ranks. But many, including Mr. Daniel, feel the chief has not done enough to erase vestiges of the good ol' boy culture in which black officers were given inferior treatment. Yet the black commissioners who preceded Mr. Frazier had no better success.

The city's Community Relations Commission concluded last year that black police officers are disciplined more harshly than whites. But an internal report Chief Frazier ordered this year said there was no such bias. Colonel Daniel quit working with the CRC in June, indicating no confidence that group could engender change. But change must come.

Moving Colonel Daniel won't end racial division within the force. That task still confronts the mayor.

Pub Date: 9/08/97

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