City Council wants a halt to rotation of detectives Policy noted in departures of homicide unit veterans

November 03, 1998|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Troubled by Baltimore's homicide rate, City Council members are calling for an end to a controversial police department policy of rotating veteran homicide detectives into other jobs.

In a resolution passed during last night's meeting, the council said it "demands that the [Mayor Kurt L.] Schmoke administration halt its policy."

The resolution's sponsor, Councilman Martin O'Malley, called the policy "foolish" because officers with minimal homicide investigative experience would be responsible for solving some of the city's toughest crimes.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "There's not another city in the nation that would have a rising homicide rate and would move veteran homicide investigators out of the homicide unit."

O'Malley and other city officials blame the policy for leading some veteran homicide detectives to quit or retire. Five have quit or been transferred in recent weeks, raising the ire of city State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who worries that cases would go unsolved.

Baltimore had 258 homicides as of Nov. 1. During the same period last year, 256 were reported.

Under the rotation policy implemented for the first time in the homicide unit last month, officers are moved into other jobs every few years as part of an effort to end what Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier called a "good-old-boy" system that excluded some officers -- particularly minorities -- from top assignments.

Police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said that O'Malley's arguments are not new and that the city's homicide rate has declined from 1993 to 1997. "The commissioner has spoken publicly about the rotation policy for four years and feels that it is a sound management practice," he said.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III said after last night's meeting that he does not believe that the rotation policy is necessary to give minorities more opportunities in the department.

"I have been the strongest proponent over the last few years for desegregation of the department," Bell said. "I believe we can definitely diversify, we can definitely promote African-Americans without that policy."

The mayor has talked to Frazier about the policy, but has not ordered him to end it. After the council meeting, Schmoke spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said the mayor doesn't interfere with how Frazier runs the department.

"It's not a Schmoke administration policy," he said. "The mayor lets the police commissioner run the police department. If the mayor is going to run the police department, why do we need a police commissioner?"

Coleman said Schmoke is urging the council to speak with Frazier about the policy.

Pub Date: 11/03/98

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