Confirmation hearing scheduled for Hamm

Acting police commissioner to face City Council on March 2

He would be O'Malley's fourth chief

February 14, 2005|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore City Council will hold a March 2 confirmation hearing on the nomination of acting police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm to be the city's permanent law enforcement chief.

Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, chairman of the council's executive nominations committee, said he has set aside one day for the hearing, which will begin at 5 p.m. and be televised on the city's cable channel.

"That's what we've always done," said Young, a Democrat who represents East Baltimore's 12th District. "I'm not going to do anything different."

Mayor Martin O'Malley announced Feb. 3 that he would submit Hamm's name to the council. The announcement came after a background check that officials said was more thorough than that of previous nominees for the position. The check also included a financial history as well as interviews with past employers, friends and associates.

Hamm, 55, was named acting police commissioner in November after the firing of Kevin P. Clark, and officials said then that they expected his nomination to the permanent post.

His nomination, which will be submitted to the council at tonight's meeting, comes as the city is in the midst of an alarming wave of homicides.

Last month, Baltimore averaged a killing a day. And in 2004, the city recorded 278 slayings, the highest number in five years and the second consecutive annual increase after three straight years of decline.

In response, Hamm has developed a plan to reduce homicides that includes flooding violent areas with patrol officers, shining helicopter spotlights on known drug corners, and targeting truant students and curfew violators.

Young, whose district includes some of the city's most crime-ridden areas, said he wants more details on how police are going to be assigned.

"The main thing I want to find out is how he's going to deploy people, not just in my district but across the city," Young said. "I want some law and order restored."

Young said he was not interested in probing Hamm's personal finances, which includes a 1997 bankruptcy. "I don't have questions about that kind of stuff," he said.

Members of the public will be allowed to comment during the hearing, Young said, but only council members will be allowed to question the acting commissioner.

Hamm, who grew up in Cherry Hill and graduated from City College, spent 22 years on the police force, retiring as a major in 1996 in a dispute with a supervisor.

He worked as a security supervisor for the Downtown Partnership and as chief of the city school police and the Morgan State University police before returning to the city police force in September.

If confirmed by the council, he will be the fourth police chief in the five years of the O'Malley administration.

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