Police chief, minority group quarrel in e-mails to force

Society accused top aide of improper conduct

January 13, 2004|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A bitter dispute between Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark and the president of a group that advocates for black officers is playing out in e-mails to the entire 3,300- member force, with Clark calling the group's leader "reckless" for lobbing heated accusations at a top police commander last week.

The battle began on Thursday when Officer Jeffrey Redd, president of the Vanguard Justice Society, and several other members of the organization gathered at police headquarters to hold a news conference attacking Clark's chief of staff.

They alleged that the chief of staff, George Mitchell, was using his influence to initiate internal investigations against minority officers without Clark's knowledge.

On Friday evening, Clark responded in an e-mail to the force, attacking Redd for his "hate-filled words."

"Police Officer Jeffrey Redd's personal attack on Chief George Mitchell is the most reckless display of an individual abusing their elected authority as the head of a law enforcement fraternal organization that I have ever known," Clark wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Sun.

Clark, who is African-American, said he was repulsed by some of the accusations, adding that Mitchell follows his orders. Mitchell, who is white, has been a dues-paying member of Vanguard for the last 23 years, police officials said.

Redd did not return phone calls yesterday for comment.

Vanguard's leaders say they have about 600 members. The group's members declined last week to give examples of Mitchell's conduct that they found objectionable and said they were going to wait to hear from Clark before providing more information.

Yesterday morning, Redd responded to Clark's message in an e-mail to the department, saying the agency "is in turmoil" and complaining that Clark will not meet with his group.

"Your personal attack does not get us anywhere," Redd wrote.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow declined to comment yesterday on Redd's e-mail, saying he was "not going to get into a critique of the back and forth" between Vanguard and Clark.

In July, Redd joined union officials in raising questions about Clark's crime-fighting strategies and departmental morale. By September, Redd had reversed his position, saying Clark was doing a good job.

"He's addressing the concerns as far as his plans and what he wants done and his guidance of the department," Redd said in a Sept. 16 article in The Sun.

About that time, one of Vanguard's longtime members, Edward Jackson, had been promoted to chief of the department's administrative division. Vanguard's news conference Thursday occurred shortly after Jackson was notified that he was being investigated by internal affairs detectives on accusations that he improperly supervised and reinstated a former police spokeswoman to a job as a police officer.

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