Mayor says he won't fire Frazier Schmoke rejects those assailing police chief over racial issues

October 03, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Returning yesterday from a trip abroad to confront another racial uproar in Baltimore's Police Department, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke denounced protesters who for two days have demanded that his police commissioner resign or be fired.

The protesters charge that Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has not done enough to root out racism in the department, which they say contradicts statements he made in a sworn deposition made public Tuesday, in which he said there is racism on his force.

Schmoke, who said he will not fire Frazier or ask him to resign, gave the commissioner his full support and said he has confidence in the reforms Frazier has implemented over the past year.

"I think he's making a great deal of progress," said the mayor, who returned from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. "If he had denied there were problems, then people would have rightly said he is out of touch."

Schmoke said that "racism in the Police Department is historic" and has existed under three black police commissioners. "I never heard any of these elected officials make those kind of suggestions when we had African-American commissioners," he said.

Hours earlier, 20 protesters, including black officers who said they were fired after complaining about racism, had marched in front of police headquarters.

Among them was Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a candidate for the 44th District state Senate seat, who said the pace of reform is too slow. He called for a review of termination cases to determine whether officers were unfairly targeted. He pointed to a 1997 article in The Sun in which Frazier said no widespread discrimination was found in discipline cases.

"How can he say that and then say he has been consistently admitting there is racism?" Mitchell said. "He is a liar."

Frazier got support from two of his top black commanders, Col. Robert R. Smith and Col. Alvin A. Winkler.

"I've never heard anyone come right out and say there was a racial problem in the Baltimore Police Department," said Winkler, a 30-year veteran. "Commissioner Frazier was the first to say there is a problem in this agency, and he has made changes to stop racism and to catch disparity."

Pub Date: 10/03/98

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