Group of city clergy vows to assist Norris in attempt to reduce crime

May 05, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A group of influential clergy members representing almost every part of Baltimore met with the city's acting police commissioner yesterday and promised to work in partnership to reduce crime.

The two-hour meeting at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in East Baltimore was sponsored by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, whose leader has expressed concern over the new police leader's aggressive crime-fighting strategies, modeled on New York's.

After the private meeting, the alliance's president, the Rev. Douglas I. Miles, called on clergy to "ensure that quality-of-life policing is an effective reality. We call on every police officer to recommit to providing evenhanded and fair law enforcement. We call on the mayor and the police commissioner to make good on their promise to police the police."

His comments were much milder than the ones he made April 4, when Mayor Martin O'Malley named Edward T. Norris from New York as his choice to lead the city's 3,200-member force.

Miles said then the nominee's policing plan would unfairly target African-Americans. "Now we will run from the New York boys in the drug world and from the New York boys in the Police Department," he said.

The ministerial alliance, which represents more than 200 city churches, would not endorse Norris for the permanent commissioner's job. The City Council is scheduled to vote on his confirmation Monday.

Miles said his group has traditionally stayed away from politics. "We did not endorse the previous commissioner," he said. "We do not endorse this commissioner. Whoever the commissioner is, we are bound to work with him to ensure that crime is reduced in this city."

Norris said he welcomed the opportunity to meet with the ministers to allay fears.

"There is so much misunderstanding and apprehension of what is going to happen," Norris said. "This is a perfect opportunity to explain what we plan to do as a Police Department in this city."

Both Norris and Miles expressed dismay at the violence that has given Baltimore the nation's second-highest per capita homicide rate.

"No segment of this city can sit on the sidelines," Miles said. "We know too well the pain that comes from losing loved ones to violence. We've buried too many young people and comforted far too many parents."

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