O'Malley to nominate Hamm as city police chief

No date selected yet for confirmation hearing

February 04, 2005|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Acting police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm has been tapped by Mayor Martin O'Malley to be Baltimore's next permanent law enforcement chief.

In announcing yesterday that he will submit Hamm's nomination to the City Council, O'Malley and his top aides said they have completed a background check that was more thorough than those to which previous police commissioners were subjected. It included interviews with Hamm's previous employers, associates and friends, as well as a financial history, O'Malley said.

"There are no issues in our view that a fair-minded person would hold against him," said City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler.

Tyler said an outside firm conducted the investigation, which cost about $8,000. He refused to disclose the name of the firm.

City Council members said a date for Hamm's confirmation hearing has not been set.

Hamm, 55, was named acting commissioner on Nov. 10 after the firing of Kevin P. Clark. At the time, city officials said they expected to nominate Hamm to the permanent post.

Since then, The Sun has reported that Hamm had been approved for a 1997 bankruptcy, which some experts deemed an abuse of the bankruptcy system but Hamm and city attorneys said was appropriate.

The number of killings in December plummeted to 15, one of the lowest December totals in decades. But the city recorded 34 homicides in the first 33 days of the new year.

"He has been doing a terrific job bringing this department together," O'Malley said.

Hamm retired from the city police in 1996 in a dispute with then-Chief of Patrol Ronald L. Daniel. He worked as a security supervisor for the Downtown Partnership, a business advocacy group; as chief of city school police; and as chief of Morgan State police.

The Baltimore native rejoined the city police as the No. 2 commander in September.

O'Malley praised Hamm for the respect he has earned from officers, as well as his loyalty to Baltimore. The mayor said the expanded background check was necessary because of the city's experience with previous commissioners.

The mayor's first commissioner, Daniel, resigned after 57 days.

Edward T. Norris became commissioner in 2000 and resigned in 2002 before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Norris was succeeded by Clark. O'Malley fired Clark in November, saying that domestic abuse allegations against him, though unsubstantiated, had eroded his ability to lead.

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