Norris grilled by lawmakers at confirmation hearing for post

February 04, 2003|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Baltimore lawmakers grilled Col. Edward T. Norris yesterday during his confirmation hearing for state police superintendent, questioning his position on such issues as racial profiling, bringing troopers into the city to fight crime and a citizen's right to bear arms.

Discussion of Norris' confirmation before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee was the longest and most heated of the dozen hearings yesterday.

Although it is widely expected that he will be confirmed as Maryland's next top police officer, the battery of questions from city senators signaled their displeasure with his decision to leave his post as Baltimore's police commissioner.

"Can you tell us why you opted at the time you did to leave Baltimore City?" asked Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Northeast Baltimore Democrat.

Norris responded calmly. "The national average for police chiefs is 20 months. I was there three years. I saw [the state job] as a great opportunity," he said.

"Is it true that you did not tell my good friend the mayor you were leaving?" Conway asked.

"Of course, I did," Norris said.

Some members of the committee wondered whether state troopers would have the training needed to respond with sensitivity to urban problems if they begin fighting crime in the city - a plan now being developed.

But before the criticism could go much further, one Baltimore resident rose to his defense.

"You can chop his head off; that's fine," said Myrtle Howerton, a Druid Heights activist. "But if he said he was going to do something, he did it."

Besides Norris, the committee also held hearings yesterday on four of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s other Cabinet secretary nominees. The full Senate is scheduled to make a final decision on their confirmations Friday.

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