Frazier does not attend City Council budget hearing

Colonel is sent instead to discuss police staffing

May 18, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier did not show up at a City Council hearing yesterday, angering the budget committee chairman who said the Police Department has done little to replace a flood of officers who are retiring.

City Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., one of Frazier's strongest supporters, said he was not satisfied that a police colonel was sent to answer questions about department staffing.

"I've taken a lot of bullets standing up for him," D'Adamo said of Frazier. He said the commissioner "let the ball drop on this one. I don't think he can face the council because he doesn't have the answers."

The Budget and Appropriations Committee had asked Frazier to address the high number of retirements resulting from an incentive program under which many officers are getting lump-sum payments from their pension fund when they leave.

Department officials have launched an aggressive recruiting drive to attract new officers to fill the void; they said they anticipate about 250 of the 3,200 sworn law enforcement officers will leave the department by mid-summer.

Police union officials have predicted an exodus of 350, and warned that the best efforts by the department will not keep up with attrition. D'Adamo said he wanted assurances from police officials that something is being done.

The councilman said he spoke to Frazier by phone last week and wrote him a letter saying that the commissioner was expected at yesterday's budget hearing. The department instead sent Col. Victor Gregory, head of the human resources department.

"Commissioner Frazier sent Colonel Gregory to the hearing because he directly governs the daily operation of the human resources bureau, which manages our retirement issues," said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with disrespect," Weinhold said. "It has everything to do with efficiency, as Colonel Gregory is more than capable of comprehensively responding to the committee's concerns and inquiries."

Gregory did not return calls to his office seeking comment.

D'Adamo went forward with his hearing, but said he has several questions remaining. "The department has done very little to prepare for this," he said, noting that 109 officers have already retired and 209 more have filed retirement papers -- exceeding the department's earlier retirement estimates.

The request, D'Adamo said, "was to the commissioner, not to the colonel. He's responsible for the Police Department. I think the colonel did the best he could under the pressure he was put under."

Frazier is scheduled to testify about his department's budget on Monday; D'Adamo said he wants to call a special session to quiz the top police official on retirements.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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