O'Malley is wooing zero-tolerance gurus

Police consultants offer high-priced management savvy

October 02, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Democratic mayoral nominee Martin O'Malley intends to revamp the Baltimore Police Department and find a police commissioner through the help of a former New York transit officer credited with sharply cutting crime in cities throughout the nation.

The Northeast Baltimore city councilman said yesterday that although no agreement has been reached, he has met twice with Jack Maple and his partner, New York management consultant John Linder, about serving as police consultants to the next administration.

Maple revolutionized modern policing earlier this decade in New York through the use of computers and helped develop the so-called "zero-tolerance" crime-fighting strategy that has helped cities reduce urban crime to 30-year lows.

O'Malley faces Republican David F. Tufaro in the general election Nov. 2, but the Democrat has already begun putting together his transition team.

O'Malley, a former state prosecutor and defense attorney, won the primary Sept. 14 after pledging to reduce crime and eradicate the city's open-air drug markets.

"We still have to work out an agreement," O'Malley said. "But I'm hoping that they'll be able to help me implement the program that the voters said they want."

Neither Maple nor Linder could be reached yesterday to comment on the negotiations.

One of the chief hurdles in attracting the two is their $2,000-a-day price tag. The duo are working in Philadelphia and have done similar work in Birmingham, Ala., and Newark, N.J.

In 1995, New Orleans business leaders formed a police foundation to hire the two after high-profile murders and widespread police corruption threatened to destroy that city's convention business. Since then, the New Orleans Police Foundation has paid the consultants $1 million as the city became the national leader in reduction of violent crime.

"You can't afford not to do it," Terry Ebbert, executive director of the foundation, said of the consultants. "Three of the top crime reduction cities in the nation are their clients."

Maple has become a legend in modern American crime fighting. He rose from being a subway police officer to deputy police commissioner in New York City by creating a crime-mapping system that allowed police to attack crimes by pinpointing where they most occurred.

Maple's system developed into a computer review of crimes in specific areas known as "Comstat," which Baltimore has adopted to help identify crime hot spots.

The strategy also involves police officers' addressing minor crimes and catching repeat offenders before they commit more serious violence.

Linder, a management consultant, also worked in the New York Police Department.

In New York, murders dropped from 2,262 in 1990 to just over 600 last year.

Maple's no-nonsense approach is combined with Linder's management expertise to get squabbling law enforcement factions to work together, Ebbert said. Police departments where the two men have worked have initially resisted their advice, calling them outsiders.

Word of their possible arrival in Baltimore was welcomed yesterday from the Police Department's top commanders to rank-and-file officers.

"They're outstanding," Fraternal Order of Police President Gary McLhinney said. "And the thing I like most about them is that they stress that we can do it without police misconduct and abuse, that we can do it and do it right."

Police Col. John E. Gavrilis, one of the department's three acting commissioners, also welcomed the consulting idea yesterday. Maple "has an outstanding reputation," Gavrilis said. "He's a very dynamic individual."

The men would have their work cut out for them in Baltimore. Yesterday, former Baltimore Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier finished his five-year tenure, taking a job with the U.S. Justice Department. Frazier faced swelling criticism for failing to drastically reduce the city's murder rate, which has exceeded 300 murders per year for a decade and ranks fourth highest in the nation.

Most crime in the city has dropped to 10-year lows, but the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently determined that the Police Department had a systematic practice of disciplining black officers more harshly than whites.

Frazier, a former police administrator in San Jose, Calif., has been praised for making the Baltimore department more professional.

But he and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke resisted the New York crime-fighting strategy, fearing infringement on the civil liberties of city residents, particularly African-Americans.

The New York department has attracted national attention after an unarmed West Africa man was shot 41 times by white officers. A white policeman also pleaded guilty to brutalizing a black man in 1997 with a stick.

Opponents of zero-tolerance policing contend that the heightened interaction between police and citizens increases police brutality. O'Malley's opponent, Tufaro, said he wants neighborhoods to determine which crimes should be enforced. "That's what they're doing successfully in some parts of Baltimore today," Tufaro said.

Tufaro declined to comment on O'Malley's effort and said he was unaware of the consultants' history.

Maple, who has a book being published later this month, has challenged the brutality assertions, most recently in the New York Times. Exposing police brutality helps prevent it, he said, mentioning a policy that O'Malley pushed during the primary.

"A key component is going to be policing our police," O'Malley said.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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