Police grads praised, warned

Commissioner outlines challenge, rewards of city job

April 15, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's newest police officers received a daunting challenge coupled with a stern warning yesterday: reduce crime and restore order, but don't be a "cowboy."

"You work in the second most dangerous city in the United States," acting Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris told the 51 graduates during a ceremony at the downtown War Memorial Building.

Fight crime aggressively, Norris told the recruits, "by acting like the police." But, the city's commissioner designee warned, "I don't want you to ever confuse what I'm saying. Being the police does not mean being a cowboy."

To underscore the recruits' importance to a force operating several hundred short of its full complement of 3,200, the new officers are being sent immediately to the Eastern and Western Districts, the city's highest crime areas.

Among the graduates was Ricky A. Livesay Jr., the nephew of Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay, who also attended the graduation.

The ceremony came a day after a spurt of violence on Wednesday and Thursday that left six people dead, bringing the yearly homicide total to 83, compared with 68 at the same time last year, when 311 people were killed.

Norris was appointed by Mayor Martin O'Malley to launch a new policing strategy based on successes in New York and quickly reduce the killings that Norris said yesterday left Baltimore ranked second in the nation in per-capita homicides, behind Detroit. The city ranked fourth in 1998.

"That we have to fix," Norris told the graduates yesterday. "The most disturbing fact behind the numbers is that they are not numbers. They are people. You can be aggressive and assertive. You cannot be abusive."

Challenges highlighted

The latest six killings, and a double shooting early yesterday on Pennsylvania Avenue that left two men wounded, highlight the challenges ahead.

Two of Thursday night's fatalities were identified yesterday as cousins -- Anthony Evans, 21, and Marlow West, 19 -- who were shot inside a car in the 1500 block of Lester Morton Court in East Baltimore.

O'Malley's goal is to end the year with fewer than 300 killings, which has not occurred for 10 years, and reduce homicides to 175 by 2002.

But more aggressive patrols worry some community members, who point to police-involved shootings and stop-and-frisk street searches in New York, where Norris is from, as examples of police excess.

Concern over tactics

G.I. Johnson, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, said his group is going through Norris' 152-page crime fighting plan and talking to people in New York. He was in the audience for yesterday's graduation.

"I have young people calling all of the time about complaints, not only on how they are being treated by the Police Department," he said, but about the violence and its impact.

Former Baltimore Police Maj. Patrick L. Bradley, deputy director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission, said jokingly that the recruits are "absolutely crazy" for becoming officers.

The job can seem easy "until you get a call for the man at the bar with the gun," Bradley said. The gunman "is not going to be hard to find. Everybody else is running away from him."

He urged the new officers to call a friend to explain their new job. After the friend says, "I couldn't do it," Bradley told them to respond: "I know you can't do it. I can."

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