Norris confirmation should not drag on

Crime-fighting: Mayor O'Malley picks former New Yorker to implement his police strategy.

April 05, 2000

WITH THE MIGHT of city voters' mandate, Mayor Martin O'Malley made clear yesterday that he won't tinker with a radical crime-fighting plan recommended by his consultants.

This is the reality the City Council and others need to take into account as the process for naming the successor to Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel moves ahead. They may argue about the wisdom of the mayor's choice of Edward T. Norris, a former New York City deputy commissioner, to run the Baltimore Police Department.

But the 152-page crime-fighting blueprint, in Mr. O'Malley's judgment, is non-negotiable. Mr. O'Malley's consultants can point to substantial decreases in homicides and overall crime in other cities that have adopted their crime-fighting strategies. But because of the consultants' links to New York City, their recommendations are viewed with suspicion. Some critics see their plan as an extension of the excessive force tactics that have given the New York police a bad reputation.

Mr. Daniel's ouster after only 57 days on the job does not help the situation. Mr. Daniel resigned because he did not want to go along with the New York consultants' plan, finding fault with its aggressive timetable for department reforms.

There is no question drastic measures are needed to equip the police force to curb Baltimore's out-of-control homicide rate, which is among the nation's highest. Mr. O'Malley received the voters' overwhelming support last year when he pledged to take action. Given the glaring problems, his police reorganization plan must be given a chance to work.

Mr. Norris' nomination ought to be considered in the same dispassionate manner.

He merits a fair, thorough and quick hearing. He should not be punished for New York policing excesses unless there is proof he was involved.

In the meantime, Baltimoreans should make an effort to read the consultants' recommendations. Nothing in their report advocates extreme force. Instead, the plan dwells on structural changes that would make the city's police department more efficient and more responsive -- goals all Baltimoreans should share.

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