Daniel aims for `smarter arrests'

Police chief to emphasize priorities, deployment

January 06, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's new police commissioner told a radio audience yesterday that he will deploy his troops to ensure crime is curtailed in the city and that his officers will try new ways to clear criminals from the streets.

Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel, speaking on WJHU's Marc Steiner Show, said officers must make "smarter arrests" to help prosecutors win convictions, and they will get clear direction as to the department's priorities.

"Often times in police work we give people conflicting signals, or we give people too many tasks to do, and we tell them everything is a priority," Daniel said. "The best intentioned officer out there might not know what is expected."

Mayor Martin O'Malley's choice to lead the city police force with a mandate to reduce homicides that have topped 300 a year for the past decade said department resources have not been used at peak efficiency.

"We have to put cops on the dots, and the dots are the crime problems," Daniel said during Steiner's noontime show on public radio. "I'm not sure we're doing that now -- putting police officers where we need them most."

Daniel took part of the blame for a problem that police in the past have blamed on prosecutors: how to cut crime when more than 60 percent of misdemeanor arrests are dropped before trial.

He said officers should make "smarter arrests" with the understanding that winning convictions is as important as taking criminals off the streets.

The 26-year department veteran addressed a wide variety of topics on the radio show. Listeners quizzed him on specific personnel moves, racism, pimps allegedly working out of a library in Northwest Baltimore and jaywalkers downtown.

Daniel would not address questions about how he will structure his command staff or the recent departures of three of his top commanders. He pledged to end disparate treatment in how officers are disciplined, but declined to talk about specific cases because of negotiations with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Twice, Daniel read out the office telephone numbers to district station houses and urged people to call the police commanders with problems. He read out Maj. Zeinab Rabold's number at Northwestern and told a caller: "You tell her I told you to call."

He joked about his suit and tie, a sharp contrast to his predecessor, Thomas C. Frazier, who wore his uniform every day. Daniel, who had been assigned to City Hall before taking his new job, said his colonel's uniform didn't fit.

Daniel had a new one made, but he said he doesn't want to wear it yet because it has commissioner's stripes, and he wants to wait until after his City Council confirmation hearings this month.

The commissioner's third day in charge of the 3,200-member force was spent in meetings and in the field inspecting his troops. He addressed homicide detectives, who have come under fire recently for a low clearance rate -- fewer than 40 percent of last year's killings have been solved -- blamed in part by police commanders for fueling violence.

"I thanked them for doing their jobs," Daniel said on the Steiner show. "I told them that in my opinion they had received some undue criticism in the media regarding their ability. I told them it certainly wasn't their fault that murders have occurred in the city. It is their job to try to effectively solve as many of these crimes as possible."

Homicide Detective Martin Young said he was pleased Daniel came to the unit's office. "It's always nice to have the top guy's support," he said. "We are all pretty much in the spotlight because of the clearance rate. I guarantee you next year that it will be higher."

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