UM team gets OK to review city police shooting data Pratt objects to hiring, says professor, students aren't qualified to do job

July 09, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Over the objections of City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, the Baltimore Board of Estimates agreed yesterday to hire a University of Maryland team to review two years of police shooting reports for $10,000.

The five-member panel voted 3-2 to enter the contract at the suggestion of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Schmoke hopes that the review of shooting reports from 1993 and 1997 will settle a long-running dispute between a councilman and the police commissioner over whether the city has become safer.

Another audit under way

Pratt, who is already conducting a three-month audit of police shooting reports at the request of the council, voted against hiring criminal justice Professor Charles Wellford. Wellford intends to use students to help with the review.

Schmoke estimated the effort would cost the city $25,000 if a "big six" accounting firm was hired. But because Wellford isn't a licensed accountant, Pratt objected to calling Wellford's review an audit.

"I don't feel the professor and the students have the qualifications to render an opinion," Pratt said.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III agreed and joined Pratt in opposing Wellford's hiring.

The contract is the latest action in a dispute over whether city shootings have dropped as drastically as police claim. Last year, Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said shootings -- fatal and otherwise -- had fallen "nearly 60 percent" since he was hired in February 1994.

Frazier is confident

In March, Councilman Martin O'Malley released an audit comparing November shooting statistics in the years 1993 through 1996. O'Malley's audit showed police over-reported shootings in 1993, and under-reported them in 1996, when the police department claimed a huge drop.

Frazier said he is confident that Wellford's review will support the department's initial drop claims.

Schmoke lauded Wellford as a regarded university researcher who has conducted similar studies for the state and federal governments.

Schmoke said he hopes the Wellford review will give the public another view of the shootings. "And we'll let the public decide" who is telling the truth, he said.

Wellford is expected to complete the review within four months.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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