City's police ending reviews

Portion of evaluation was like a quota, critics say

Program to be scrutinized

Form required officers to record arrest statistics

April 02, 2005|By Michael Hoffman | Michael Hoffman,SUN STAFF

A portion of the Baltimore Police Department's performance evaluation system, which drew criticism from city leaders who said it resembled a quota system, was ended yesterday after a meeting between police officials and City Council members. Police also said the program will be reviewed.

Several council members, led by Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., feared that the form patrol officers had to complete, which required them to furnish enforcement statistics such as arrests and traffic stops, gave the program the appearance of a quota system. Harris said the practice could have resulted in lawsuits based on unwarranted arrests and civil rights violations.

As a result of the meeting, Harris and police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm agreed that the department and the council's public safety committee would re-examine over the next 30 days how officers are evaluated and issue a report recommending changes to the system.

FOR THE RECORD - A headline in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly stated that the Baltimore Police Department was ending performance reviews of officers. The department is altering a portion of the review process, specifically forms that detailed an officer's performance, such as arrests, citations and absences. The Sun regrets the error.

"The commissioner committed to work with me and the City Council's public safety committee to put together a performance enhancement plan that is more of a qualitative measure than quantitative," Harris said.

The evaluation system, called the performance enhancement program, started a month ago. The system required patrol officers to record details ranging from parking citations to felony arrests. An officer's totals were then compared to squad and shift averages.

Last week, the 27 lowest-rated patrol officers - the three lowest-rated in each police district - were reassigned to different districts and instructed to improve.

Many police officers had complained about the performance enhancement program, worrying that it might encourage officers to make arrests to pad their statistics, said Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, president of the local police union.

"I don't know where they were getting this information that everyone was wonderful about it," said Roussey, referring to comments from Police Department officials that most officers were satisfied with the system.

Deputy Police Commissioner Marcus Brown said the program was not intended as a quota system and believed that the discussion between the police and City Council was productive.

"I think the outcome of the meeting today was that the City Council now understands that the police don't have a quota system," he said. "Their concerns were that the rumor was out there."

Brown said there is more to the program than the statistics form; officers are also evaluated on such criteria as appearance, tardiness and citizens' comments about an individual officer.

"The part that seemed to be stressed was the enforcement statistics, when there was a lot more to it," Brown said.

Last week, the Police Department ended a separate program initiated by a Northern District lieutenant that awarded points for arrests made, citations and parking tickets given, towed vehicles reported and juvenile curfew violators caught. Police spokesman Matt Jablow has said the point system was not a quota system, but the department wanted to avoid the appearance of one.

During yesterday's meeting, both sides also discussed the issue of people being arrested and detained at Central Booking and Intake Center for one to three days, and then released without being charged - but with the arrest remaining on their records.

Council members said many constituents have complained about the practice and the problems it could cause when looking for a job.

Because the computer system responsible for keeping arrest records is operated by the state, council members and the police agreed to work with state officials to make it easier for people to clear their records.

"A lot of damage is done to a person's psyche when they feel they are falsely arrested and they still have a record," said City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector.

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