THERE WERE NO smiling faces at City Hall yesterday, when Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, barely controlling his anger, ordered his two feuding top cops to amicably resolve wide-ranging concerns about Baltimore's police department within 90 days. "We want to stop talking black and white in the police department and start talking blue," the mayor declared.
The mayor's action reinstated Col. Ronald L. Daniel, the department's highest African-American officer, who had been suspended for insubordination by Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier. But the mayor withstood pressure from a cabal of politicians and police unionists to fire Mr. Frazier.
"This is not a time for apology, this is a time to move forward," he said. "I believe everybody has now laid these issues on the table: They are tough issues but issues we can resolve."
Whether yesterday's proposed solution to the command crisis turns out to be a mere cooling-off period or a move toward a lasting settlement of complicated problems, Mr. Schmoke handled the situation pragmatically and well. Had he caved in under pressure from the foes of Mr. Frazier, the mayor would have capitulated before elements that included many of his fiercest political enemies. Had he not ordered the reinstatement of Colonel Daniel, the mayor would have incurred the ire of wide and vocal segments of the African-American community.
This compromise may or may not satisfy the feuding top cops and their considerable egos. But in expressing confidence in both Commissioner Frazier and Colonel Daniel, the mayor has created conditions for reconciliation.
In his three years in Baltimore, Mr. Frazier has taken steps to reorganize a department badly demoralized under its previous commanders. He has ruffled feathers -- but crime is going down. Unfortunately, he has not been able to end in-fighting that often has been caused by professional or racial envy.
Under Mr. Frazier, the police department has not resolved such long-standing concerns as the Internal Investigation Division's propensity to punish African-American officers, though more complaints are lodged against whites. Changes ordered by Mr. Frazier in the rotation policy continue to be controversial.
These problems have to be resolved. We are certain that they can be under Commissioner Frazier's leadership.
Pub Date: 4/26/97