Police opt for racial profiling seminar

Move is designed to regain credibility after Healy memo

March 13, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police officials are sending top commanders to a racial profiling seminar this month and have asked the U.S. Justice Department to help train front-line supervisors about the issue in light of a major's memo last month urging officers to stop all black men near a bus stop.

Officials with the Justice Department's Community Relations Service will train about 50 lieutenants about professionalism, traffic stops and profiling, police said. Supervisors will then pass along the knowledge to the department's 3,200 officers.

Justice officials will also train the department's community relations officers about how to educate the public and then hold a four-hour seminar with top commanders, police said.

In two weeks, the department's district commanders and several other supervisors will be sent to a two-day seminar on racial profiling in Washington conducted by a Virginia think tank. The training will cost $8,000.

Police officials said they decided to beef up their training because of the memo issued by Maj. Donald E. Healy, the commander of the Northeastern District. Healy, a well-respected veteran police official, apologized for the memo, saying his directions had not been specific enough. He resigned under pressure after the memo became public last week.

Healy wrote the memo after a woman was raped at the bus stop.

Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said the order - "Every black male around this Bus Stop is to be stopped until the subject is apprehended" - was illegal.

"When a commander as well-respected and who has done such a good job makes a mistake along those lines, the department wants to ensure we take advantage of all opportunities to train officers," said Sean R. Malone, who heads the force's legal affairs office. "We want to demonstrate to the public how serious we are."

But the $8,000 seminar was criticized yesterday by union officials who said it was a waste of money.

"We're talking about commanders here," said Gary McLhinney, president of the local police union. "I think they are just doing this to appease some people regarding the Major Healy incident, to tell people we are reacting to this memo."

Sgt. Richard A. Hite Jr., president of the Vanguard Justice Society, a group that represents about 650 black officers, welcomed the training but said it did not go far enough. "It needs to trickle down to front-line troops as well," he said.

The seminar by the Performance Institute, which specializes in government accountability, will offer seminars about the complexity of racial profiling in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the collection of traffic stop data and how to perform more professional traffic stops, among other topics.

About 60 officials from departments across the country plan to attend the conference, said Todd Coleman, director of the institute's Law Enforcement Development Center.

Justice Department officials soon will begin training the department's lieutenants, officials said. City police have worked in the past with Justice's Community Relations Service, which works with police departments nationwide on similar issues.

Police officials said they hoped the increased training will help them regain any credibility they lost because of Healy's Feb. 22 memo.

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