EVEN HIS most ardent champion, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, admits he would like to see Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier do a better job of lowering the city's crime rate. But the vote of no-confidence taken by disgruntled Fraternal Order of Police members has no validity as an indication of Mr. Frazier's actual performance. In fact, he has brought professionalism and internal discipline to the force that was sorely needed before he arrived three years ago.
That the city's homicide rate increased in 1996 while going down in other cities indicates Mr. Frazier still has a lot of work to do, but even so he provides more than a promise that he will do better. The chief's concentration on weapons-violation arrests has helped reduce the number of shootings in Baltimore. Analysis indicates the increase in homicides is principally the result of more execution-style drug gang slayings in which high-caliber guns were used and the victims were shot multiple times.
The FOP's complaints stem more from department politics. Only last month, the FOP and the city completed 13 months of labor negotiations that had soured a lot of officers' feelings about the force. And they are still resisting a rotation policy that would give younger and minority officers experience handling assignments usually reserved for more seasoned veterans. Mr. Frazier has postponed that policy, in part because retirements have already brought new people into many key positions.
Mr. Schmoke suggests that the chief's poor relationship with the rank-and-file may stem in part from his 1995 re-election campaign. The mayor and the FOP have been at odds ever since the union endorsed former City Council President Mary Pat Clarke for mayor in 1995. Mr. Schmoke said he believes criticism of Mr. Frazier is really aimed at him. In either case, the mayor must not let his feelings about the FOP cloud his assessment of what must be done to improve law enforcement in the city.
Chief Frazier has done a good job, but he must do better -- and he needs help from other parts of the criminal justice system. Fighting crime requires a more coordinated effort by police, the state's attorney and the courts. That is finally being attempted in Baltimore. But should it fail, fingers will point in a number of directions, including at Mr. Frazier and Mr. Schmoke. Instead of taking votes on the chief, the FOP would better serve the public by supporting new crime-fighting initiatives and providing its insights as to how to improve them.
Pub Date: 2/08/97