Top mayoral candidates announce takes on Frazier

August 08, 1999|By Gregory Kane

WHAT WILL BALTIMORE'S leading candidates for mayor do with Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier if elected? Their answers are printed below.

Mary Conaway: "He's going to be fired. There are a lot of problems, a lot of discrimination going on in the police department. Frazier said he inherited these problems, but he hasn't done anything about them."

Conaway said Frazier hasn't promoted enough blacks and has done nothing about the disparity between the ways black and white officers are disciplined. The situation has now deteriorated to the point where "Frazier is the problem." She would search the ranks of the Baltimore Police Department and other departments in the metropolitan area for a replacement.

Carl Stokes sent in this statement:

"I will ask that all cabinet members resign their positions when I take office, and this will include the police commissioner. Immediately after being elected, I will form a transition team with the help of experts and community leaders from throughout Baltimore to look at the performance of all departments and current department heads.

"At that time, we will also begin to define the skills and abilities that we want and need for our new reorganized structure.

"At that point, we will begin the search, which may include existing department heads who want to reapply for their position. However, this search will be local and national in scope in order to identify the best, the brightest and the most competent people. From the pool of candidates, I will make the decision who will best fit the leadership role to implement the new goals and vision set forth for that department. This will be my procedure for all positions, including the police department."

Third District Councilman Martin O'Malley is, to understate matters considerably, no friend of Frazier's. The two have tangled in the past. Two years ago they went at it over the issue of hypocrisy. O'Malley said Frazier was a hypocrite for accepting money -- that the commissioner donated to the Police Athletic League program -- from an organization that favored the decriminalization of drugs.

Frazier's top commanders countered that O'Malley was the hypocrite, posing as a crime fighter while using his role as a defense attorney to take up the cause of those charged with drug and gun crimes. Before that row, O'Malley had also called for Frazier's resignation. He weighed in with a response guaranteed to shock no one:

"I would bring in another police commissioner because I believe we can do better," O'Malley said. "It's for the same reasons I advocated the resignation of [former] Commissioner Ed Woods -- he failed to reduce the homicide rate and he failed to close open air drug markets."

O'Malley acknowledged that Baltimore's homicide rate is down, but he didn't credit Frazier or the police. He gave kudos to Pat Jessamy's state's attorney's office for reducing the homicide rate.

But "the drug markets have expanded over the last five years," O'Malley said. "By the same criteria we evaluated Commissioner Woods by, this guy [Frazier] hasn't gotten the job done."

City Council President Lawrence Bell didn't return about half a dozen calls made to his office soliciting his opinion on this subject. We should all hope he has not abandoned addressing the issues in favor of ad hominem attack politics, but his anti-O'Malley tirade at a board of estimates meeting, and his supporters' crashing an O'Malley endorsement rally indicate that is precisely the case.

But Bell needs to tell us exactly what Conaway, Stokes and O'Malley have told us: What will happen to Commissioner Frazier if Bell is elected mayor? Conaway, Stokes and O'Malley have done us a service by giving honest and precise answers. It's up to voters to ask the questions those responses provoke:

Since the power to appoint the commissioner was returned to Baltimore, when has a newly elected mayor given the boot to a police commissioner immediately on taking office?

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Vanguard Justice Society have called for Frazier's dismissal. Will they have a say in the hiring of the new commissioner? We should all pray not.

Is it good policy to dismiss a police commissioner during a year when homicides are down and crime has dropped 14 percent?

Do Baltimoreans want to go through another round of musical police commissioners?

What does Frazier say in his defense? Look for the answers in Wednesday's column.

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