A 23-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department has been chosen the new assistant chief in Annapolis, fulfilling a promise madeby the mayor a year ago to hire a black deputy.

Col. Joseph S. Johnson, commander of the Baltimore's patrol division, will start his new job July 1, pending City Council approval of the 1992 budget. The council will vote on the position April 4.

"I have to think about my career at this time," said Johnson, a lifelong Anne Arundel resident. "I have to think about coming back home to my family."

Johnson said it is too early to say what changes,if any, he plans to bring to the department, which has been troubledwith charges of racism and mismanagement.

"I am fully abreast of the problem they face in Annapolis," Johnson said. "I intend to bringwith me all the skills and talents of 23 years of service to Baltimore."

The choosing of Johnson comes just two weeks after Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins decided to include an assistant police chief in his proposed budget.

A week earlier, the police department's Black Officers Association called on Hopkins to hire a black deputy chief and keep a promise the mayor made a year ago at an event attended by 300 people.

Hopkins denied a connection between his decision and the BAO's request.

Yesterday, Tom Roskelly, the city public information officer, said the decision to hire an assistant was left up to Chief Harold Robbins, who was hired in September from the St. Petersburg, Fla., police department.

"I have no idea if he was told to select a black candidate," Roskelly said. "I guess you can draw your own conclusion. I don't know if there was a direct instruction."

Robbins refused to comment, saying a press conference this morning will explain everything. "I don't think (the police officers) should have to hear it from the newspaper in the morning," he said.

Johnson, who grew up in the Eastport section of Annapolis and graduated from Bates High School, started his career in 1968 as patrol officer in Baltimore'sSouthern District. In 1975, he was promoted to sergeant and was assigned to the tactical section.

Five years later, he became a lieutenant and shift commander in the Southern District. In 1986, he was named commander of the Southwestern District, and in 1989 he was placedin charge of the Criminal Investigations Division.

Nine months ago, he was named chief of patrol, supervising 1,800 officers, the largest command in the department. He is the fifth highest-ranking Baltimore officer.

Johnson, 48, has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Baltimore and lives in Birdsville, south of Parole.

He and his wife, Margaret, have three children, Renee, 26, Derrick, 21, and Jason, 15.

Johnson will join a department trying to repair damaged relations with residents of housing projects, who have complained of harassment. The department is also trying to remove tarnish created by the dismantling of the mostly black Delta Force drug squad.

Sgt. Robert E. Beans, the former head of the Black Officers Association, and Officer Chandler Powell faced charges last spring that Delta Force broke department rules.

The investigation of Delta Force began when Beans charged white officers with racism andsabotage.

A police trial board dismissed charges against Beans, and charges against Powell were subsequently dropped. But many black city residents were outraged over the treatment of the two officers.

Johnson said he knows about the controversy over Delta Force, but said it is too early to discuss what plans he has.

"Chief Robbins and I both share a great number of ideas we'd like to try and accomplish with what Delta Force was intended to accomplish," he said. "I want to change the tides, turn the agency about and modernize it so it can better serve the citizens of Annapolis."

Johnson said he has "a good understanding of what his role will be," adding it was not theright time to go into specifics.

Roskelly said Johnson was a strong finalist for the job of chief last year.

Roskelly said he did not know why Capt. Norman Randall, a 28-year veteran, the highest-ranking black and the department's senior officer, did not get the position. Randall had been one of Hopkins' top choices.

Randall said yesterday he's disappointed he wasn't chosen, but he's pleased that Robbins selected Johnson. "I have to say about Johnson, he's a good man,"Randall said. "I think he'll be good for the department. Plus, as far as I know, he's easy to get along with, too. But definitely a professional."

Randall, who is 55, said he never formally applied for the assistant chief's position and did not interview for the job. He said he first heard about Johnson's appointment yesterday afternoon ina brief meeting Robbins held in the chief's office with the department's four captains.

Detective George Kelly, who heads the Black Officer's Association, said he's disappointed Robbins did not choose topromote someone from inside the department "seeing as how they went outside for the chief."

However, Kelly said, "I've heard good things about him (Johnson) . . . we look forward to meeting the new deputy chief and working with him."

Alderman Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7,chairwoman of the public safety committee, said Johnson has better credentials than Randall, which became apparent during the nationwide search for police chief.

DeGraff, who initially opposed Hopkins' idea to hire a black deputy chief, said she changed her mind because of Johnson's credentials and the fact that Capt. Charles Lane is retiring, freeing up money in the budget.

"One of the things I had heartburn over with hiring a black deputy chief . . . was that nobody in the department was qualified. None of them even had a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, so if we had hired one of them for deputy chief it would be almost token," DeGraff said.

She said Johnson wouldassume Lane's administrative duties, but the details of the new chain of command have not been ironed out.

DeGraff said Johnson's position will cost the city $10,000, the difference between his salary and what Lane was earning.

"He'll be like a senior captain, almost like having a major without raping the taxpayers for one," she said. "I think we got the best of both worlds. We got Hal, who is a great administrator, and we got Johnson, who is a great officer and also happens to be black."

Staff writers Arthur Hirsch and Robert Lee contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad