Consultants, Daniel said to clash on city police reform

Meetings on restructuring described as `contentious'

March 30, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A consultant group that has been studying Baltimore police since December is embroiled in sometimes contentious discussions with the police commissioner over how to reform the department and lower city crime.

Mayor Martin O'Malley described the tension as healthy arguments over how to restructure the department and decrease homicides, which have topped 300 a year for a decade.

The mayor mentioned the private struggles Tuesday night when he apologized for arriving late at a meeting of business leaders, telling them he had to rescue his $2,000-a-day consultant team from the wrath of Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel.

Yesterday, city officials played down the mayor's comments as flip jokes that exaggerated the situation. In an interview, O'Malley denied a dispute exists, but described discussions involving people with different agendas and styles that sometimes clash.

"Commissioner Daniel has been in this department for 26 years, and he wants to make sure he understands everything that is being done," O'Malley said. "Some of these concepts are new to the department. He has to make sure he understands them, or he cannot be an effective leader."

The tensions highlight internal struggles among top police officials, some of whom were strangers and are under considerable political pressure to reform a department and quickly reduce crime.

O'Malley has taken an active interest in the police force and is relying on the consultants, whom he hired before he named Daniel commissioner, to draft and implement a reform plan.

O'Malley said the team, led by Jack Maple and John Linder and funded by two private foundations, is eager to put a reform plan into action -- "to change the tires of the car as it is rolling." The mayor said Daniel is going through the draft of the consultants' report, "crossing all the i's and t's. He is a very meticulous person."

O'Malley said the Maple team is making specific recommendations, such as requiring two officers in patrol cars in high-crime areas, and conducting a "sociological" study of the force.

The mayor said Daniel feels that the sociological study is "a waste of time and resources. I find it interesting." The consultants' study is expected to cost $400,000. No taxpayer money is being used.

Daniel, Linder, O'Malley and others met Tuesday to discuss a draft version of the consultant report. Tony White, the mayor's spokesman, characterized it as a "contentious meeting."

Daniel did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday, a police spokesman said, and the consultants have declined interview requests. In a preliminary assessment conducted before the team was hired, the consultants wrote that city police had "lost the trust of the citizenry they are mandated to serve."

O'Malley staked his campaign on reducing crime and promised to clear 10 drug corners in the city within six months of being elected. He also has set a goal of cutting homicides 43 percent, from more than 300 a year to 175 by 2002.

The report was to have been completed by last month. But that deadline is past, and no date has been set for its release. "That's the problem," White said.

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