Police hire N.Y. officer as deputy

Norris, credited with crime reduction, to work under Daniel

January 10, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff

The strategist credited with reducing New York City's crime and homicide rates will join the Baltimore Police Department as a chief deputy for new Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel.

Edward T. Norris, 40, has served for the past 31/2 years as deputy commissioner of operations for the New York Police Department. New York authorities credit Norris with implementing a program to target people wanted on outstanding warrants, doubling the number of fugitive arrests. He also created a "cold case" homicide squad that resulted in 27 arrests for unsolved killings in its first six weeks.

His pending appointment, days after three top Baltimore police colonels announced their retirements, affirms that new Mayor Martin O'Malley's promised changes in fighting crime are under way.

Norris' new job in Baltimore was confirmed yesterday by a New York Police Department spokeswoman, Officer Theresa Farello.

Daniel and the mayor's chief spokesman declined to comment. Norris could not be reached for comment.

He had been a leading candidate to head Baltimore's 3,200-member force before O'Malley chose Daniel last month.

Daniel met Norris several years ago while in New York to study alternative crime-fighting strategies. Officials familiar with the two men describe them as acquaintances. "They've known each other for quite a while," one City Hall source said yesterday.

"I only heard very positive things about Norris," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and a key adviser to O'Malley. "I think the mayor and Ron Daniel all have major responsibilities to achieve what candidate O'Malley promised the voters of Baltimore, to reduce murder and reduce crime."

Key to homicide approach

Norris' start date in Baltimore and salary were not available. As a deputy commissioner in Baltimore, he would play a key role in shaping the Police Department's approach to combating the nation's fourth-highest per-capita homicide rate. The department was criticized last month in a draft report to O'Malley by a committee of public safety officials and residents. It described the force as demoralized and crime as "rampant and unabated," and blamed "neglect, indifference and political machinations."

Norris joined the New York force in 1980 as an officer patrolling midtown Manhattan. He worked his way up the command chain, through narcotics, the detective bureau, and command positions at One Police Plaza, the department headquarters.

In his most recent role, he was responsible for implementing "often controversial agency programs and strategies of the highest priority confronting the department," a department release said.

Norris has been unapologetic for the department's tough policing strategies in the face of increased complaints of police brutality. In the fall, he blamed media scrutiny for a rise in homicides, saying officers were wary of confronting criminals in the wake of critical coverage.

He is a protege of Jack Maple, a former New York transit officer who is credited with revolutionizing modern policing by developing a computerized crime-mapping system, which allows police to attack crimes by pinpointing where they occur most often.

Maple, who has been hired by O'Malley as a $2,000-a-day police consultant, also developed New York's zero-tolerance policing strategy, in which police target minor infractions to discourage more serious crime.

The system has been credited with reducing New York's homicide total from 2,245 in 1990 to 667 last year. The city has 7.3 million residents, giving it a homicide rate of about 9 per 100,000 residents -- one of the lowest among major cities.

Baltimore, with a population of 645,000, had 308 homicides in 1999, the 10th consecutive year with more than 300. The city's rate is 48 homicides per 100,000 residents, or more than five times that of New York's.

New York's zero-tolerance strategy has prompted criticism from some residents, particularly minorities, who allege increased brutality and unwarranted stops by officers.

'Convicted in the media'

O'Malley faced down similar criticism during his mayoral campaign, in which zero tolerance became an issue after a shooting of a man by a Baltimore officer. Daniel has taken pains to avoid the term "zero tolerance." He said after his appointment was announced Dec. 23, "There is no need to fear the police."

Norris, speaking at a university seminar in October, blamed negative media coverage, in particular from the New York Times, for a slight upturn in homicides in New York. He was quoted as saying that newspaper coverage "has led people to believe that we are a brutal, horrible agency that is stopping crime by stomping on people's rights. Every time a police officer gets involved in something, he is convicted in the media the next day."

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