Diversity debate bedevils city's police and politicians

January 28, 2004|By GREGORY KANE

MAYOR Martin O'Malley's police commissioner problem just won't go away.

The mayor's first commissioner - Ron Daniel, reputed to be qualified and dedicated - resigned after only a few months on the job for reasons that are still unclear. Ed Norris, O'Malley's second pick, departed to become the superintendent of the Maryland State Police and was recently indicted in the alleged misuse of funds from an off-the-books account.

O'Malley went to the New York Police Department to get Norris.

And when Norris left, O'Malley went to the New York well once again in naming Norris' replacement: Kevin Clark, whose tenure thus far has been marred by accusations of lack of communication, indecision, intimidation and no commitment to diversity.

Clark is black, so the last charge might seem odd. But it was Lt. Col. Stanford Franklin, whom Clark fired last week, who made that accusation. Franklin, also black, said Clark has not provided Chief Edward Jackson with a lieutenant, sergeant and secretary crucial to running his administrative division. Jackson is an African-American.

So is Ragina Averella, the former public affairs director under Norris who was demoted by Clark. Averella worked briefly with Norris when he was in charge of the state police. She decided to rejoin the Baltimore Police Department at the reduced rank of police agent.

This month, Sun reporter Del Quentin Wilber wrote an article saying Jackson and Franklin were the targets of an internal affairs investigation alleging "that they improperly supervised and reinstated the department's former director of public affairs as a police officer."

Franklin provided a copy of the Oct. 1, 2003, order, signed by Clark, which reads "by order of the Commissioner, kindly issue the necessary personnel order to reflect the below member's voluntary demotion from Director/Public Information Office to her previous sworn rank held as police agent."

The "below member's" name was Ragina Averella. Police spokesman Matt Jablow said that no one should draw any conclusions about Franklin's involvement in Averella's rehiring "from that one memo."

Franklin has his own theory about why he and Jackson were targeted in the matter of Averella.

"It's quite obvious," Franklin said, "the commissioner wanted to get rid of me, Chief Jackson and Deputy [Commissioner Kenneth] Blackwell." Blackwell is also an African-American.

Jackson and Blackwell still have their jobs.

One African-American accusing another of being hostile to diversity might sound odd, but Franklin had numbers to back his claim. The new organized crime unit, Franklin said, has nine white lieutenants and no blacks. There are 29 white sergeants, five black sergeants and one American Indian sergeant.

The numbers in the detective division are similar, Franklin said: 19 white male lieutenants and one African-American woman. No Hispanics, Asians or American Indians.

Jablow, the head of public affairs for city cops, verified Franklin's data. If Clark is making promotions based on qualifications, not color, then I have no problem with that. (And it should be mentioned that Clark has canned his share of white command staffers.)

The ones who should have a problem are O'Malley and the Democrats on the Baltimore City Council. (That would be all of them.) Democrats all but genuflect when the "d" word is mentioned. So far, we've not heard a peep from the same City Council that couldn't wait to haul Norris, who is white, into the chambers and explain the firing of two black command staffers.

Officer Jeffrey Redd, another African-American who until recently had headed the Vanguard Justice Society, an advocacy group for minority city officers, has also questioned Clark's commitment to diversity. Redd has been suspended by the organization's board of directors pending a hearing next week before the Vanguard board. The suspension followed a public feud with Clark.

Only two of the city's nine police district commanders are black, Redd said, and only two of nine deputy majors. Shouldn't leaders in a city run by Democrats be up in arms about what appears to be a lack of diversity?

"I would hope so," Redd said.

"The commissioner promotes on ability, not race," Jablow said. "These jobs are too important not to, which isn't to say minority hiring isn't extremely important to him." Jablow added that the department has 18 African-American lieutenants and 50 sergeants in the patrol division, out of a total of 56 and 178, respectively.

"The commissioner appreciates the job Franklin did," Jablow said of the departed head of human resources. "We just decided to go in another direction."

Considering they canned a guy who came out of retirement after 23 years with the Maryland State Police to serve Baltimore, you have to wonder what that direction is, and why those other cops - the diversity ones - have asked nary a question.

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