Norris continues to promote crime-fighting proposal

April 28, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

In his second public forum in as many nights, acting police Commissioner Edward T. Norris heard words of welcome last night -- and numerous complaints about the way the department has treated residents.

The auditorium at Douglass High School in West Baltimore was nearly full when Norris took the podium to present the city's new crime-fighting plan. As he did on Wednesday at a similar event at City College, he showed slides of crime statistics and proposed solutions.

Norris spoke frequently of the department's past failings. Noting that arrests for violent crime have declined and crime rates have remained high, Norris said, "The police department was not performing up to where it should be."

A woman in the crowd called out, "You got that right!"

Norris was applauded several times during his presentation.

During the question-and-answer session, the first audience members to come to the microphone voiced support for the crime-reduction plan and their eagerness to see results.

"Drastic times call for drastic measures. These are drastic times," a woman said to loud applause.

Soon, though, several speakers said the police department's measures had often been too drastic, especially toward African-Americans.

Many in the predominantly black crowd cheered and nodded as members of the audience told stories of abusive or insensitive police behavior.

Norris said little during the public comment period.

Carol Payne-Jackson of the Beechfield neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore said Norris could have a difficult time trying to improve a troubled departmental culture.

"He made some good points, but what is he going to do when he finds out about the bad cops? He has a shortage of cops, and the code of silence is too heavy," Payne-Jackson said.

Said Johnny Dow of Northwest Baltimore, "I want to see crime stop, but I also want to see the police do what it takes to get along with the community."

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