Residents raise their concerns during `Mayor's Night Out'

O'Malley addresses Police Department reform

April 06, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Residents expressed concerns ranging from police brutality to traffic congestion to run-down parks at a public forum held by Mayor Martin O'Malley last night at Edmondson High School in Southwest Baltimore.

The "Mayor's Night Out," O'Malley's second forum since taking office in December, came a day after Edward T. Norris, 40, was nominated as police commissioner to replace Ronald L. Daniel, who resigned last week.

Many in the black community have said they don't want Norris, the chief architect of New York's policing strategy. At a community meeting Monday night in West Baltimore, during which tensions were high at times, the overriding sentiment was that Norris should go back to New York. But last night's meeting was civil.

O'Malley initiated the subject of the police department during opening comments to the more than 650 residents in attendance, including many officers in uniform, Maryland legislators, city council members and heads of municipal agencies.

The mayor said the city will be policed "without people running roughshod over civil rights." He also urged residents to read a private consultant's 152-page report unveiled this week on plans for policing the city.

"We're going to have a plan that isn't for Boston, that isn't for New York, that isn't for Newark or New Orleans," O'Malley said. "It's going to be Baltimore's plan."

When O'Malley opened the floor to questions, about 45 people quickly formed two lines down the auditorium aisles.

Carolyn Hux, 51, said she is more fearful of police than criminals.

She talked about problems facing Baltimore, including "police brutality, racism, sexism and inequitable resources" in public schools, drawing heavy applause. She also talked about being afraid for her son, Malik McDade, 13.

"We should not tolerate the mistreatment of people because of their skin color, income, sex or political ideology," Hux said. "I just want to urge that we not be misguided by what is happening in New York."

Hux's comments were often drowned out by loud applause and shouts of "Amen."

O'Malley responded to Hux in part by saying: "If we wouldn't tolerate open-air drug markets in a rich neighborhood [then] we shouldn't tolerate it in a poor neighborhood."

He also emphasized that just as police keep statistics on other crimes, they are going to "map police brutality."

Later, Norris responded to one man's concerns about police by saying, in part: "These are training issues and discipline issues. We've got to make the department a very professional one."

Rydell Davis, 35, talked about slow responses to maintenance concerns in public housing and asked O'Malley to build additional affordable housing.

Former state Sen. Larry Young said he thought it was important for O'Malley to hold the meeting.

"O'Malley is smooth, he's articulate and he came into this room knowing his honeymoon period has been shortened," Young said.

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