2 more colonels step down in city

Patrol supervisor, PAL head to retire from police force

Daniel takes command

O'Malley says changes in department are to reduce crime, killings

January 04, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Two more Baltimore police colonels have announced their retirements, giving the city's new mayor and police commissioner a clean slate from which to remake the force and embark on their ambitious plan to reduce crime and homicides.

Cols. Alvin A. Winkler and Robert F. Smith told their staffs Thursday that they will step down Jan. 31. Col. John E. Gavrilis announced his departure last week. The three commanders have 84 years of combined experience.

The retirements were made public yesterday, the day Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel took charge of the 3,200-member force. The 26-year city police veteran was named commissioner shortly before Christmas.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Tuesday's Maryland section incorrectly quoted Baltimore Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel as saying that officers did not receive enough support from former Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier. He said officers did not receive enough support from past police commanders. The Sun regrets the error.

Daniel has promised to streamline the top command ranks, but he would not say yesterday whom he would choose or how he would organize his immediate subordinates. Sources have said that Edward T. Norris, deputy commissioner of operations for the New York Police Department, is likely to be hired as a top deputy.

Daniel has to be confirmed by the City Council. Hearings are scheduled for this month, but council approval is considered a formality. City Council President Sheila Dixon, at a news conference yesterday, used the phrase "when he is confirmed" while praising Daniel.

A formal swearing-in won't be held until after Daniel officially takes over at the end of the month, but he was welcomed by his troops yesterday. His first stop as new police leader was the Western District station, where he praised officers for undertaking the dangerous job of getting guns off the street New Year's Eve.

A scrolling marquee in the roll call room -- used to remind officers of court assignments and routine matters -- said yesterday: "We're behind you Commissioner Daniel."

`They will be praised'

Daniel returned the goodwill gesture, telling a room packed with media, police commanders, politicians and community leaders that officers did not receive enough support from former Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier. "They will be praised in this administration," he said.

Winkler and Smith did not attend yesterday's news conference, and neither returned calls. Sources said Smith, a blunt, 28-year veteran and former Marine, was forced out by Daniel and only reluctantly decided to leave of his own accord.

Asked about his job status Thursday, Smith said, "I have no intention of going anywhere." Had he refused to retire, Daniel could have demoted him to his last civil service rank, a lieutenant.

Smith, Gavrilis and Winkler were strong supporters of Frazier, whom Daniel labeled a racist three years ago, sparking an uproar and prompting the colonel's banishment from Police Headquarters for two years.

Mayor Martin O'Malley made a name for himself before and during his campaign by repeatedly criticizing Frazier and his loyalists for their management and crime-fighting strategies, which he blamed for a high homicide rate that has made the city one of the deadliest in the nation.

Other changes possible

Police sources say that other ousters or demotions are being considered but probably will not occur until Daniel has his command chain firmly in place. The sources said additional retirements of top-level police officials are expected soon.

Those in line for promotion, sources say, include Maj. Barry Powell, who could become a colonel and replace Gavrilis as head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

At yesterday's news conference, Daniel would only repeat comments he made last month when he was announced as the commissioner, saying he would assess the department's organization and each commander "at a later date."

O'Malley would not comment specifically on the changes but said alterations in his Police Department have one objective, reducing crime and killings. The city tallied 308 homicides last year, and at least two people have been fatally shot in the first three days of 2000.

"Ron has got my support to do whatever he has to do to save lives," the mayor said after the news conference.

`We're going to miss him'

Winkler, 53, is a lifelong city resident who grew up on East Oliver Street and is a deacon at Fountain Baptist Church. The Army veteran joined the Police Department in 1968 and has held a variety of jobs, including patrol, tactical and commander of the Eastern District. Frazier promoted him to colonel in 1997, the same year he suspended Daniel and accused him of being insubordinate.

Winkler's most recent assignment was head of the Police Athletic League, which Frazier developed as one of his most important programs. O'Malley has criticized PAL as being top-heavy with commanders and has vowed to put the centers under the control of district commanders.

Winkler, a graduate of the University of Baltimore and Douglass High School, was popular as a district commander in the Eastern District, on the streets where he grew up.

"Community policing in the eastern started under him," said Lucille Gorham, president of the Middle East Community Organization. "He was a real down-to-earth, easygoing man. We're going to miss him. I'm sure he'll still be active."

Winkler received six commendations and two Bronze Stars, one for catching an armed bank robbery suspect and one for "displaying great personal courage under a threatening barricade situation" in 1981.

28-year veteran

Smith, 54, joined the force in 1971, after serving six years in the Marine Corps. He also has served in numerous positions -- his latest was supervising half of the patrol bureau. Frazier promoted him twice, to major in 1994 and colonel in 1996.

The 28-year veteran, who is black, staunchly defended Frazier, who is white, on charges that the former commissioner was not sensitive to concerns by African-American officers. Smith received four commendations, including two Bronze Stars for arrests of gun suspects.

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