Grayling Williams

Grayling Williams, left, answers questions at a press conference at police headquarters this morning. He is the chief of Internal Affairs Division. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / January 27, 2012)

Baltimore police officials said Friday that the new heads of training and internal discipline — hires made from outside the department — will help restore public trust in an agency marred in the past year by corruption and a "friendly-fire" incident in which an officer was killed.

The additions of a former federal drug agent who grew up in New York and a veteran police commander from Montgomery County prove his department is serious about improving, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said.

"We know we have in some areas, in some communities, and with some officers, an estranged, broken relationship," Bealefeld told reporters during an hourlong discussion at the downtown police headquarters. "I'm relying on these two."

Bealefeld said Grayling Williams, the new head of the Internal Investigation Division, which handles complaints of abuse, excessive force and other improprieties on the 3,100-member force, will put a public face on efforts to regain credibility.

"I want the communities to see Chief Williams as an icon of integrity," the commissioner said. "He's going to hear their concerns, and he's going to work his tail off to resolve them in a very just fashion. … I thought it was important that we find someone that would have the credibility in the community to stand alone, to go into neighborhoods and immediately win trust "

The hires, made with input from a state police training commission and an advisory board of citizens who help investigate officer misconduct, came after a series of incidents last year that threatened confidence in the department.

An independent commission issued a stinging critique of a shooting outside Select Lounge in January 2011 in which four officers fatally shot a plainclothes officer as he shot and killed a man during a fight. The board found that supervisors failed to take control of the chaotic scene, which drew officers speeding in from across the half the city but who were left with little or no supervision once they arrived.

Also last year, 17 city police officers were indicted on federal charges of orchestrating a kickback scheme involving towed vehicles. Charges against one of the officers were dropped, and 14 others pleaded guilty in the case, along with the owners of the towing company. Two officers are facing trial in February.

Then a police officer was charged by federal authorities with dealing heroin from a station house parking lot. After his arrest, the commander of internal investigations was moved to another post after it came to light that he had a social relationship with the arrested officer and had appeared in a photo with him, and separately with another man charged in another drug case.

Williams said that "nothing that I've read or seen in the Baltimore Police Department gave me pause" about accepting the job. Noting he was raised by his grandmother in public housing in Harlem, he credited a housing officer who fixed a leaking pipe with inspiring his escape from the projects and into 30 years of law enforcement.

"Baltimore is a tough town, and it's got its tough areas," Williams said. "But New York City is a bigger town and arguably it has some tougher areas." He said departments big and small have problems — he pointed to the police force in East Haven, Conn., in which three officers and their sergeant were arrested by the FBI and charged this week with terrorizing Hispanic residents.

"That's a 50-man department," Williams said, "and they have issues." He added that Baltimore is no worse than other police agencies. "Baltimore is a big-city department with big-city issues," he said. "But they're not insurmountable."

Williams, who is earning $110,000, has a long career in law enforcement, including 22 years with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which took him to Baltimore as a supervisory agent in 2002. His jobs included formulating policy, and in 2009 President Barack Obama appointed him to do counter-narcotics work in the Department of Homeland Security.

The new director of training, John A. King, is a former career police officer in Montgomery County who retired in 2007 as deputy chief. He served as chief of the small force in Gaithersburg and got his start in Baltimore as a patrol officer in the Eastern District in 1980.

Baltimore police have been engaged for the past four years in revamping training, through a program called Diamond Standard, and King, whose new job pays $97,000 a year, called it among the most innovative and intense curriculum in the country.

"We hire people to be problem solvers," said King, recalling the story Williams told about the officer who fixed the pipes for his mother. "That officer never had that class in the academy, yet he figured out how to do the right thing. That's what we want our officers to do."

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

justin.fenton@baltsun.com


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