Police commissioner, prosecutor are not feuding over...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

February 20, 1999

Police commissioner, prosecutor are not feuding over procedure; Getting away with Murder

We were highly concerned when reading the editorial "Governor must lead repair of justice system" (Feb. 17). The editorial mentioned two points that were grossly inaccurate.

The first being the alleged "active feuding" between the State's Attorney's Office and the Police Department. To suggest that we actively feud with one another couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, we have met many times recently regarding effective management strategies and solutions pertaining to violent crime prevention, enforcement and prosecution in the city of Baltimore.

We, along with many other legislative and political leaders, are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to making the criminal justice system in Baltimore City more effective. This is not a time for fanning the flames of feuds or egos, but a time for unwavering commitment, teamwork and cooperation.

Secondly, the editorial suggests that the Police Department must be "persuaded" to "give up the job of charging arrestees and turn over the functions to the State's Attorney's Office. Let us make this perfectly clear: We are well documented as two of the strongest proponents for prosecutors taking over the charging function; we firmly support this concept.

The prosecutorial body attempts to prove criminal cases in court. Therefore, it makes sense for prosecutors to place the criminal charges they ultimately have to prove. This prevents overcharging and streamlines the criminal justice process from the beginning.

We, like the many other men and women who wear a badge or prosecute criminal cases, remain firmly committed to removing violent offenders from Baltimore's neighborhoods and improving the quality of life for those who live, work and raise families in our city.

Thomas C. Frazier, Baltimore

Patricia C. Jessamy, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, Baltimore police commissioner and Baltimore state's attorney.

Thank you for your two-page editorial on the city's murder rate. I hope you will bring the same continuing focus on the criminal justice system that you have to Reading by 9. In doing so, perhaps you can sharpen the issues and your recommendations.

You urge "a crackdown," "an evaluation," "streamlining" and an end to "turf battles." As your coverage continues, I hope your recommendations will become increasingly specific.

It would be very helpful for the public to have a periodic update of progress on needed reforms and objective data to measure progress.

While it is far from clear that the situation you describe significantly impacts the murder rate, other indicators are available to determine whether progress is being made in producing a more efficient and effective criminal justice system.

Robert C. Embry Jr., Baltimore

The writer is president of the Abell Foundation.

I extend my compliments and thanks for the editorial "Getting away with murder" (Feb. 14). It was comprehensive, rational and constructive.

The editorial's "Homicide squad" section in particular caught my attention. That section discusses the ramifications of Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier's rotation policy. While the logic behind the policy has some merit, the policy also has some serious flaws.

Apparently, a major justification for the policy was to solve the racial inequity problems that have plagued the department for years. The approach strikes me as a clumsy, bureaucratic solution.

Consider this: Every organization has several types of members. One type gravitates to a particular field and develops a level of skill and expertise that enables him or her to make extraordinary contributions in a specialized area.

Another type is more versatile. These people expose themselves to a variety of disciplines. Ultimately, they want to understand all of the elements affecting the organization. Their level of expertise may not be as deep in any area, but they have a broader perspective on the interrelationships and how they affect the organization's goals.

Long ago, the private sector concluded the obvious: Encourage the specialists to grow in their respective fields and rotate the generalists.

Any complex organization needs both types. Specialists ensure against policies and decisions that don't make sense, and generalists ensure that the overall priorities of the organization are coordinated and reinforced.

I don't see why minorities shouldn't be able to thrive pursuing either path.

Commissioner Frazier would be much better advised if he would strive to identify and nurture both types and find less rigid, bureaucratic ways of addressing the race problem within his organization.

He needn't abandon his rotation policy; just apply it more flexibly.

J. Alexander Doyle III, Baltimore

Legislators must act to administer justice

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