Frazier moves on racism High marks from panel: Despite allegations, chief has made positive changes.

September 25, 1997

WHAT HAS Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier done to counter charges that his department remains hampered by racism within its ranks? Plenty, it turns out.

Yet progress in erasing the racist culture that once permeated the Baltimore Police Department has been obscured by the continued allegation from one of the force's highest-ranking African-American officers that the police chief is prejudiced.

A more impartial source of evidence, the Baltimore Community Relations Commission, gives Mr. Frazier high marks. The panel concluded last year that black police officers were disciplined more harshly than whites. But officials at the commission say that the stonewalling first exhibited by Mr. Frazier when confronted with the CRC assessment has been replaced by a spirit of cooperation that has led to positive results.

CRC Director Alvin O. Gilliard says the commissioner is establishing an Equal Employment Opportunity unit to handle complaints of discrimination within the force. The unit will be housed outside police headquarters, so officers making complaints won't fear retaliation.

In addition, Mr. Frazier has increased to eight hours, from the previous two, the required amount of cultural sensitivity training that all officers must undergo. And he has extended the in-service requirement to civilian personnel. Mr. Gilliard explained that many of the civilian employees are black women while most of the uniformed officers are white men.

Other steps taken by the commissioner include creation of a standardized system to track discrimination complaints from the time they are made to resolvement. And he has agreed to let the Fraternal Order of Police, the Vanguard organization for black officers and the municipal employees union have representatives on police disciplinary trial boards.

Mr. Gilliard said no conclusion has been reached on why black officers who commit a rules infraction have been disciplined more harshly than whites. Race is the most apparent factor, but other reasons could come into play, including prior military experience, length of service as a police officer or level of education.

It is, indeed, encouraging that the Community Relations Commission feels Commissioner Frazier is making a genuine effort to end any role that racism may play in the Police Department and to bring about necessary changes in how officers treat one another.

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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