Public trust essential for successful policing

Evaluations: Mayor O'Malley should release consultants' critical reports on police department.

March 16, 2000

MORE than a month ago, Mayor Martin O'Malley released his transition team's verbatim reviews of city departments. That gave Baltimoreans a better understanding of their city's problems and the new administration's timetable for dealing with them.

The mayor should now do the same with voluminous consultants' reports concerning the police department. There is no reason to keep those studies secret.

Among reports that ought to be released and subjected to public discussion are:

A $140,000 review of the police department's overall operations by Jack Maple and John Linder. That evaluation, sponsored by the Abell Foundation, includes recommendations for crime-fighting strategies that Baltimore should adopt to reduce its homicide rate, which is among the nation's highest.

An assessment of the troubled homicide unit by Steve Tabeling, a former city detective lieutenant.

Auditors' findings that officers deflated nearly 10,000 serious incidents in 1999, enabling the police department to claim more success than it actually had in reducing crime.

Various sources are peddling partial information from these reports. But the actual documents are being kept secret on the pretense that they are confidential or exist only in draft form.

We don't buy that logic.

More effective crime-fighting was the galvanizing issue that enabled Mr. O'Malley to beat the odds and win the mayor's office last year. For that reason alone, Baltimoreans have a deep interest in trying to understand the problems that undermine the performance of their law-enforcement agencies.

Citizens also want to know about strategies the new administration is considering for curbing crime and violence.

In the past few weeks, Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel has shaken up the police department the most since Donald D. Pomerleau's 1966 reorganization. Much of the top command is gone; many internal policies are being revised.

At this promising -- but difficult -- time, the police department needs the support of all segments of the Baltimore community. Such trust, though, can only exist if Mayor O'Malley is open and frank about the department's strengths and weaknesses.

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