Daniel quitting as police chief

Mayor says the two could not agree on how to get job done

Daniel held post 57 days

Friction with mayor, outside consultants leads to resignation

March 31, 2000|By Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields | Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel abruptly agreed yesterday to resign after holding office just 57 days, ending a contentious reign in which he refused to back the mayor's plan to fight crime.

The 26-year veteran will meet with top police officials today to officially announce his departure, which took even his closest aides by surprise. Sources said Deputy Commissioner Edward T. Norris will be named acting chief.

"Ron Daniel and I both share a commitment to make Baltimore a safer place," Mayor Martin O'Malley said in a statement.

"But we have come to the conclusion that our differences on how to get the job done make it impossible for us to collaborate in achieving that common goal.

"Therefore," O'Malley said, "the mutual commitment that brought us together now brings us to the inescapable conclusion that we must go our separate ways."

O'Malley declined to make any further comment and Daniel refused to comment last night as he attended a professional wrestling match at the Baltimore Arena with his 13-year-old son.

While Daniel's resignation surprised nearly every city official and stunned many residents, it did not come without some warning.

O'Malley had twice expressed his impatience with his leadership -- in January for not moving fast enough to fight crime and yesterday for disagreeing with a New York consultant hired by O'Malley.

Reacting last night, some politicians and community leaders blamed O'Malley's impatient style and desire to have a say in police affairs; others said the breakup was inevitable given Daniel's history of bucking authority.

A top city legislator in Annapolis expressed dismay at the timing, worrying that it could undermine efforts to obtain more state funding for drug treatment and criminal justice programs in Baltimore.

City Hall sources said Daniel could not work with $2,000-a-day crime consultants -- Jack Maple and John Linder -- who were hired by O'Malley before he chose Daniel as commissioner, and who have been busy working on department reforms.

When the Maple/Linder group offered 87 suggestions for how to reduce crime in Baltimore, Daniel rejected half, City Hall sources said. At one point this week, Daniel vowed not to put his name on the plan, a source said.

Daniel, who grew up in the city and had seen it deteriorate into one of most violent in the nation, worked to revamp a department he viewed as dysfunctional.

He quickly ousted most of the command staff and overturned programs instituted by his predecessor, Thomas C. Frazier, with whom he and then-Councilman O'Malley had openly feuded.

Last night, top police officials described the department as in confusion, and district commanders were told to stay in their offices and quickly get the word to officers to prevent rumors from spreading.

"This department has been through too damn much," said one top police commander. "This kind of stuff is disheartening. I was under the impression that things were moving quickly and in the right direction."

Now, officers are wondering whether personnel moves and other changes made by Daniel will remain. In his short time as commissioner, Daniel had turned the department upside down, named close friends to top posts and ousted many enemies.

O'Malley didn't have time to alert some close allies before word leaked out. Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the West Baltimore Democrat who was an early supporter of O'Malley's candidacy, said he found the news "startling" and appeared peeved to learn of it last night, after the fact.

"I hope that this issue will not undercut our ability to bring back the millions of dollars the city needs for drug treatment and turn around the criminal justice system in Baltimore," said Rawlings, who had objected to Daniel's appointment by O'Malley.

Rawlings' comments last night ranged from veiled criticism to support of O'Malley.

"He must be under the delusion that the man can turn around the trend of crime that has been in place for more than a decade in two to three months," he said.

"The mayor's never run a police department. I know the mayor thinks he knows how to run the court system," Rawlings said, alluding to O'Malley's battle with the state's judiciary.

No chance to take charge

Rawlings said he had heard from someone who had spoken with Daniel that there had been something of a falling-out, but he did not have firsthand knowledge of the matter.

"The criticism I heard was that the mayor and the consultants were so intrusive in the running of the police department that Commissioner Daniel never had the opportunity to be in charge and leverage his vast experience in public safety management," he said.

"I didn't recommend this guy," Rawlings said, "and I don't know all the facts, but I know Daniel is a very proud black man who wanted to contribute to public safety in his community and was willing to work very hard at it."

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