Clark pledges to end feud between police, Jessamy

Acting commissioner testifies at council confirmation hearing

February 27, 2003|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark promised yesterday to end his agency's public feud with State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, train more undercover drug investigators, fine more scofflaws for minor crimes like littering and crack down on overtime by police.

Clark, 46, a former New York City narcotics division commander who has been running Baltimore's Police Department since Mayor Martin O'Malley appointed him Feb. 3, made the comments to a City Council committee during a confirmation hearing in City Hall.

The council is expected to vote on Clark's confirmation during its meeting Monday, and few on the council or elsewhere have voiced complaints about the veteran police officer.

The former Bronx officer came across as calm and articulate as he detailed his crime-fighting plan during 90 minutes of question-and-answer with the council.

The congenial tone of the meeting was markedly different from that of the contentious confirmation hearing three years ago for former Commissioner Edward T. Norris, another former New Yorker.

Clark told the council members that he would show decorum in dealing with the state's attorney's office, which has been entangled in a series of off-and-on public spats with the O'Malley administration -- prompting some to complain the police and prosecutors were not cooperating.

"I have met with Ms. Jessamy," said Clark, "and we will have disagreements. But certainly I am not going to air those in the press. ... We are not going to fingerpoint or blame, we are going to fix. I am not fighting with anybody."

Faced with a department that is at least $14 million over budget this year, largely because of overtime costs, Clark said he would analyze the top 100 overtime earners in his ranks and look for ways to cut costs.

He also said he would reorganize the city's narcotics unit, improve its internal communications and train more undercover detectives to arrest drug organization leaders, not low-level dealers.

People who litter, drink alcohol or urinate in public would face more fines but fewer arrests, leaving jail space for more dangerous criminals, Clark said.

He said the city cannot arrest its way out of its drug addiction crisis, and needs to strengthen its families and schools to steer people away from drugs. But he warned: "Legalization [of drugs] would be a disaster."

Clark said he also wanted to steer away from the numeric targets for annual homicide totals that O'Malley and Norris have used.

"There was a goal of 175 murders this year. ... Let's say Commissioner Clark gets it down to 100 murders. Will the family of those 100 people think I did a good job? I don't think so. So let's move away from numbers like this," he said.

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