Thomas C. Frazier -- the no-nonsense, forward-thinking administrator named yesterday to be Baltimore's new police commissioner -- promised no quick solutions to the city's drug and murder problems but pledged to be "highly visible" to both residents and police officers.
"Especially when you come in from the outside, I think people have to see you and hear you and make their own evaluations," Mr. Frazier said in an interview yesterday. "The community has to understand that you will change an organization if it needs to be changed based on feedback from them. The officers need to realize that you understand their problems."
"It's hard for me to prejudge what the crime rate will be next year," added Mr. Frazier, the deputy chief of operations for the San Jose, Calif., Police Department. "But what you can expect is for me to have been in your neighborhood, for you to have had a chance to tell me what you think the problems are and what you think the solutions are. And you will see us work with you to try to achieve solutions."
The appointment of Mr. Frazier, 48, was announced yesterday by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke at a morning news conference and will become effective Jan. 30, subject to confirmation by the Baltimore City Council.
Mr. Schmoke, who chose the 27-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department over three other finalists chosen by a search committee from a field of more than 80 candidates, praised Mr. Frazier's experience, sensitivity and ability to communicate.
"In Tom Frazier, we are getting the right man for the right time, a person who really understands policing and community concerns and someone who can also talk effectively with people, whether it's on the streets or in the suites," the mayor said.
Mr. Frazier, who succeeds Edward V. Woods, will initially earn $106,000 a year, $13,000 more than the job was advertised for, and Mr. Schmoke said he will seek a raise in the salary to $115,000 in July.
If confirmed by the council, as expected, Mr. Frazier would become Baltimore's first commissioner from outside the city in nearly 30 years.
Mr. Frazier, one of two whites among the four finalists, would also become the city's first white police chief since Frank J. Battaglia retired in June 1985.
Mr. Schmoke said that "race was not a factor" in his decision.
"I consulted with a lot of people in this city. And the overwhelming majority said that race was not an issue. Everyone in Baltimore shares concerns about safety and safe schools," the mayor said.
"What I did do, I considered that whoever we selected would be able to be perceived as a sensitive and caring leader by everybody in the city. That came across very strongly in my discussions with Mr. Frazier," the mayor added.
Mr. Frazier's appointment drew wide support yesterday from black and white police and community leaders, and elected officials.
"We've heard nothing but good things about him," said Leander S. "Buddy" Nevin, head of the local Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, the union that represents the city's approximately 3,000 uniformed officers.
Det. Henry Martin, president of the Vanguard Justice Society, which represents black officers who make up about 30 percent of the city's force, said Mr. Frazier appears "to come highly regarded and respected" and said he was not bothered that the new commissioner is white.
"If the search committee went out there looking for the best man for the job, we have no problem with that. We respect the search process," Detective Martin said.
Rodney Orange, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said his organization "did not have any preference as far as gender or race" of the new commissioner, adding "Our concern is that someone can tackle our problems."
Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th, whose district includes some of the city's highest crime areas, said, "I think people are looking for someone who can do the job, whether they're white or black." Mr. Bell, who chairs both the council's public safety and executive appointments committees, said a hearing would he held on Mr. Frazier's appointment in early January.
His 4th District colleague, Sheila Dixon, head of the council's African-American Coalition, said she was "somewhat disappointed" Mr. Schmoke didn't choose a black commissioner. a city that's 65 percent African-American, I think it's better to reflect who you serve. But I'm open as far as looking at his credentials," she said.
In San Jose, Mr. Frazier, a Vietnam veteran and father of three, rose through the ranks from patrolman to undercover narcotics investigator to head of the criminal investigations, internal affairs and research divisions.
A California native who holds a master's degree in public administration, he oversaw the installation of a new computerized 911 emergency center and designed and implemented the community policing plan for the department, which includes about 1,200 sworn officers.
San Jose's population -- about 800,000 -- is slightly higher than Baltimore's, but the Northern California city has a much lower homicide rate. San Jose logged about 50 murders in 1992 while Baltimore experienced 335 slayings -- a record that was broken earlier this month.
Those who work with Mr. Frazier in San Jose yesterday gave him high marks for his performance.
"He has one of the best, most incisive minds that I ever saw in the police business. He's always interested in looking at how the police department does business and whether the department is effective. If it isn't, he'll change it," said San Jose City Manager Les White.
Sgt. Michael Fehr, president of the San Jose Police Officer's Association, said: "He can be a real, real tough cookie. He's not a figurehead. He's going to run his own police department."
"It's been said by his critics that he's too hard-headed, that he was too difficult to work with. But I never found him that way. He thinks like a cop and is smart like an administrator," added Sergeant Fehr.
Mr. Frazier said in an interview shortly after he was introduced at City Hall that there are concerns about morale, integrity and the allocations of resources in the Baltimore Police Department, but he said it was too early for him to set priorities.
"I do know there is a homicide rate that is very alarming that appears to be gang- and drug-related, and I suspect that the entire method of service and delivery needs analysis and rethinking," he said.
Noting that 45 percent of Baltimore's homicides are drug- and gang-related, Mr. Frazier said one of his strategies would be to "try to prevent those narcotic enterprises from getting established."
"It's difficult to root them out once they become established because there's such incredible profit involved. Once they're in place, it's a matter of identifying who the major offenders are and doing an effective enforcement program," he added.
The Baltimore Police Department has drawn some criticism for supposedly spending too much time arresting street-level drug dealers and too little going after drug kingpins. Mr. Frazier said the department needs to go after both.
"I think you can't ignore the low-level dealers. If you do, they will take your streets away from you. But in my experience the violence is more commonly associated with other territorial disputes that go along with a higher level of narcotics trafficking," he said.
Mr. Frazier said he wanted to increase the percentage of black police officers in the department and promised to take a tough stand against corruption, which he said was inevitable in any large organization.
"Police officers don't get treated any differently than any other criminal violator in my scheme of things. They hold a public trust. It cannot and must not be violated," he said.
The finalist for the job as police chief in four other cities, Mr. Frazier said, "I have had as a personal goal for a number of years to be a CEO for a major police agency."
"I don't have plans to use this as a stepping stone to anything else. This is it," he added.
The line on Thomas C. Frazier, named yesterday as Baltimore's next police commissioner:
EDUCATION: Master's degree in criminal justice administration.
PERSONAL: Married, with three children, ages 5, 19, and 23. Born in Oxnard, Calif. Veteran of Vietnam.
CURRENT JOB: Deputy chief of operations for the San Jose, Calif., Police Department, comprised of 1,170 sworn officers.
POLICE CAREER: 27 years with the San Jose force; helped design and implement Community-Oriented Policing program; worked on the San Jose Mayor's Gang Task Force aimed at attacking gang-related crime; held police assignments ranging from internal affairs to hiring to overseeing of all criminal investigations. Was a finalist for police chief in Dallas; Seattle; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Madison, Wis.
GOALS, INTENTIONS AS POLICE COMMISSIONER: *"Reach out to the diverse segments of the community and implement a community-oriented service delivery model as the highest priority."
* "Lead by example and maintain my unquestioned integrity and honesty in interpersonal, professional, community relationships."
ON COMING IN FROM OUTSIDE THE DEPARTMENT: "The advantage is my mind is open. I don't have any ownership in the existing processes or practices. The disadvantage is that the rank and file are always apprehensive about a commander that they don't know."
PLANS: "I have had a personal goal for a number of years to be a chief executive officer for a major police agency. I don't have plans to use this as a stepping stone to anything else. This is it."
HOBBIES: Backpacking, skiing, and vegetable-growing.