Police commissioner, prosecutor are not feuding over procedure; Getting away with Murder
We were highly concerned when reading the editorial "Governor must lead repair of justice system" (Feb. 17). The editorial mentioned two points that were grossly inaccurate.
The first being the alleged "active feuding" between the State's Attorney's Office and the Police Department. To suggest that we actively feud with one another couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, we have met many times recently regarding effective management strategies and solutions pertaining to violent crime prevention, enforcement and prosecution in the city of Baltimore.
We, along with many other legislative and political leaders, are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to making the criminal justice system in Baltimore City more effective. This is not a time for fanning the flames of feuds or egos, but a time for unwavering commitment, teamwork and cooperation.
Secondly, the editorial suggests that the Police Department must be "persuaded" to "give up the job of charging arrestees and turn over the functions to the State's Attorney's Office. Let us make this perfectly clear: We are well documented as two of the strongest proponents for prosecutors taking over the charging function; we firmly support this concept.
The prosecutorial body attempts to prove criminal cases in court. Therefore, it makes sense for prosecutors to place the criminal charges they ultimately have to prove. This prevents overcharging and streamlines the criminal justice process from the beginning.
We, like the many other men and women who wear a badge or prosecute criminal cases, remain firmly committed to removing violent offenders from Baltimore's neighborhoods and improving the quality of life for those who live, work and raise families in our city.
Thomas C. Frazier, Baltimore
Patricia C. Jessamy, Baltimore
The writers are, respectively, Baltimore police commissioner and Baltimore state's attorney.
Thank you for your two-page editorial on the city's murder rate. I hope you will bring the same continuing focus on the criminal justice system that you have to Reading by 9. In doing so, perhaps you can sharpen the issues and your recommendations.
You urge "a crackdown," "an evaluation," "streamlining" and an end to "turf battles." As your coverage continues, I hope your recommendations will become increasingly specific.
It would be very helpful for the public to have a periodic update of progress on needed reforms and objective data to measure progress.
While it is far from clear that the situation you describe significantly impacts the murder rate, other indicators are available to determine whether progress is being made in producing a more efficient and effective criminal justice system.
Robert C. Embry Jr., Baltimore
The writer is president of the Abell Foundation.
I extend my compliments and thanks for the editorial "Getting away with murder" (Feb. 14). It was comprehensive, rational and constructive.
The editorial's "Homicide squad" section in particular caught my attention. That section discusses the ramifications of Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier's rotation policy. While the logic behind the policy has some merit, the policy also has some serious flaws.
Apparently, a major justification for the policy was to solve the racial inequity problems that have plagued the department for years. The approach strikes me as a clumsy, bureaucratic solution.
Consider this: Every organization has several types of members. One type gravitates to a particular field and develops a level of skill and expertise that enables him or her to make extraordinary contributions in a specialized area.
Another type is more versatile. These people expose themselves to a variety of disciplines. Ultimately, they want to understand all of the elements affecting the organization. Their level of expertise may not be as deep in any area, but they have a broader perspective on the interrelationships and how they affect the organization's goals.
Long ago, the private sector concluded the obvious: Encourage the specialists to grow in their respective fields and rotate the generalists.
Any complex organization needs both types. Specialists ensure against policies and decisions that don't make sense, and generalists ensure that the overall priorities of the organization are coordinated and reinforced.
I don't see why minorities shouldn't be able to thrive pursuing either path.
Commissioner Frazier would be much better advised if he would strive to identify and nurture both types and find less rigid, bureaucratic ways of addressing the race problem within his organization.
He needn't abandon his rotation policy; just apply it more flexibly.
J. Alexander Doyle III, Baltimore
Legislators must act to administer justice
The article about two felons being released from jail because of their not having been tried in a timely fashion should be a wake-up call for our lawmakers in Annapolis. This story comes on the heels of several other similar reported incidents in your paper.
The city delegation has the prime responsibility to do something. However, this does not excuse legislators representing surrounding metro jurisdictions from also getting involved. They come to Baltimore for sporting and cultural events as well as other functions. As visitors to Charm City, they, too, could become crime victims.
Because the state's attorney, who is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in Baltimore, is experiencing problems the question arises whether the job is too much for her to handle.
It is beyond comprehension to absorb one excuse after another why alleged criminals cannot be tried in a timely fashion as required by law.
Richard L. Lelonek, Baltimore
$3,000 for youth home is money misspent
The plan to put a home for juvenile delinquents in a house that rents for $3,000 a month, away from all the juveniles' support systems, is a serious waste of public money, a major concern to the neighbors and of little benefit to the delinquents.
For that kind of money, the system could buy a farm or acreage and build a suitable facility for the students. As a volunteer at a secure residential facility for delinquent children, I would not believe that the picture shown in The Sun is the proper facility for this propose, and the location is not proper.
I hope the powers that be will heed the neighbors and find a more suitable site. It seems hard to believe that it would take millions and years to create such a site. If one were to use the $3,000 monthly rent for mortgage payments, the money would be far better spent. Rental money has no return.
A. B. Hackney, Upperco
Senate's verdict decriminalizes perjury
Well, now its official. Perjury is no longer a crime in the United States. Neither is tampering with witnesses. Nor obstructing of justice. Mr. Clinton says so. And Congress agrees. As do millions of liberal Americans.
Clintonism has triumphed. All hail the new order.
Richard T. Seymour, Baltimore
Alan Keyes is among top black candidates
I can't believe that a Baltimore writer could write the column "Black candidates strangely missing on national stage" (Feb. 7) and ignore the most prominent presidential candidate now and in previous national elections -- Alan Keyes, who lives in Maryland.
Mr. Keyes is former ambassador to the United Nations, head of a Washington think-tank and a radio talk-show host. He delivered the most vibrant speech at the Republican caucus and at the convention. He ran for U.S. Senate in Maryland and then for president, with the backing of prominent political promoters.
Maybe he is too conservative to be considered a viable candidate to too many black voters.
If anyone is looking for an intelligent, consistently convincing speaker, a leader with international experience and strong moral standards, Mr. Keyes is the man for everybody.
Robert T. Woodworth, Baltimore
Nonpublic parents deserve school money
In response to the letter "Don't give public funds to nonpublic schools" (Feb. 11), I, too, am a taxpayer and a parent of two schoolchildren. They attend a nonpublic school. I expect to pay for the extra cost of tuition.
However, as a taxpayer, I expect something in return. I expect for my children what every schoolchild in Maryland deserves: a ride to school, textbooks to study with and technology to take children into the future.
Thirty-seven states have seen the fairness of this proposition. They understand that the health of our school systems depends on the interaction of private and public schools.
Aid to nonpublic schools is long overdue in Maryland.
Diana J. Banzhoff, Baltimore
Surplus editorial is right on taxes
I applaud your editorial, "Cut debt, not taxes," Feb. 10). It is a rational statement of what should be done with our budget surplus. The GOP clamor to cut taxes is a transparent move on the part of shortsighted Republicans to garner favor among citizens who, like themselves, can only think of transitory, short-term gains rather than the long-term good of the country.
Alphonse Chapanis, Towson
Please don't detour Intrepid Commuter
At the end of a recent "Marc Steiner Show" on WJHU-FM, I thought I heard Melody Simmons (also known as the Intrepid Commuter) say that her column in The Sun is being terminated.
You've got to be kidding! Hers is one of the most interesting columns in your newspaper, and her appearances on the radio are not only a delight but also great promotion for The Sun.
Please say it isn't so.
Spence Coleman, Catonsville
Editor's note: The Intrepid Commuter column will resume in the near future.
The mayor's wish for Wagner's Point
The Sun's editorial "A Wish for Wagner's Point" (Feb. 3) prompts me to respond on behalf of the mayor.
Many government officials, business executives and sympathetic citizens have wishes for Wagner's Point. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke also has a wish for Wagner's Point. He is prepared to commit substantial funds to acquire the properties and relocate the residents.
But before the mayor's initiative can be put into effect, the City Council must pass a condemnation ordinance that will assure completion of the expanded Patapsco Waste Water Treatment Facility.
Such a bill was introduced in the City Council Oct. 19, 1998, and is pending before the Council's Taxation and Finance Committee. No hearing date has been set.
We have received appraisals for many of the Wagner's Point properties and ordered ones for the remaining properties.
The city has also begun to assess the relocation benefits owed to each property owner. However, no offers can be made to property owners unless the City Council passes that condemnation ordinance.
Under the mayor's plan all property owners will be treated fairly.
They will receive the same benefits as would anyone whose holdings are taken by the City -- not more, not less.
It is our hope that the Wagner's Point community will unite and urge the City Council to pass the condemnation ordinance. This will allow the Mayors plan for Wagner's Point to become a reality.
Othe M. Thompson, Baltimore
The writer is Baltimore city solicitor.
Consider consequences of huge hog farms
The Sun's article "Frederick Co. hog farm has neighbors squealing" (Feb. 3) powerfully illustrates the need for statewide attention to large-scale livestock operations and their potential to harm our environment and quality of life.
This is not the first time a new hog operation has made headlines. We would be naive to think it would be the last.
Hog operations have been growing rapidly in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Marylanders can anticipate their arrival here. While we have time, we should consider and comprehensively address the consequences of an influx of large-scale livestock operations to Maryland.
Large, corporate livestock operations and the concentrated growing of animals present real threats to our environment.
These large-scale operations have spawned environmental disasters in many states, spilling disease-causing bacteria into rivers and leaching manure into ground water used for drinking.
Maryland's waterways, including the Chesapeake, can ill-afford such incidents.
Their systems already struggle to withstand existing pollution pressures.
But environmental issues are not the only concern. One Frederick County farmer was quoted as saying that he has "never seen a place in Frederick County that's capable of isolating 4,000 hogs and living with the neighbors," while a second complained that the overwhelming odor from the pigs held her family "prisoners inside our own house."
The Frederick County commissioners are wisely trying to provide time and a forum for a rational debate on these issues.
Other counties should take heed.
Thomas V. Grasso, Annapolis
The writer is Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
You should apologize for Clinton cartoon
I was absolutely appalled by the cartoon on your editorial page Feb. 13.
To equate O. J. Simpson with our president is beyond my comprehension.
That you would print such a disgusting cartoon is unbelievable. I keep thinking the media can sink no lower, and then you come up with this appalling carton.
What Mr. Simpson was accused of doing is not comparable to what our president did. You owe your subscribers an apology.
Carole Loveless, Perryville
However guilty President Clinton may be of sexual misconduct and misleading his family and the public, he should never be be compared in any way to O. J. Simpson.
Your cartoon on Feb. 13 demonstrates the ignorance of the artist and his inability to understand that the public knows the difference between lying under oath about a personal sexual relationship and the slaughter of two innocent human beings.
Why would an editor approve of printing such an appalling and obnoxious cartoon? Shame on you.
Joe Coates, Towson
I loved KAL's cartoon in the Feb. 13 edition of The Sun characterizing O. J. Simpson saluting President Clinton with a thumb's up. Truly an appropriate representation.
With our seemingly sick legal system, we now have been taught it is possible for certain individuals to get away with anything in America.
Jean Rafferty, Freeland
Throughout the impeachment and trial, your cartoons were brilliant.
Why ruin it all with such a stupid and insulting conclusion?
Elliott M. Simons, Columbia
The cartoon by KAL showing President Clinton and O. J. Simpson on the same level is demeaning, tasteless and shows KAL's lack of understanding of what has really taken place.
Many believe that Mr. Simpson literally got away with murder; Mr. Clinton lied about a sexual peccadillo and tried to cover it up. There is absolutely no basis for the odious comparison as shown in the cartoon.
KAL, like many others who dislike Mr. Clinton, still does not get it.
But the Senate and the majority of Americans understand that the punishment called for in this unneccessary impeachment process did not fit the crime.
Most of the time I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy KAL's work. In this instance, I find this cartoon totally reprehensible.
Jerry Weiner, Baltimore
I was appalled to see the Feb. 13 political cartoon by KAL.
KAL and his editor, Jacqueline Thomas, have stepped over the line of decency and respect.
I am concerned that the only newspaper in town thinks it is acceptable to compare a person accused of murdering two people with the president.
KAL, with Ms. Thomas' validation, is out of control. Do they really think this is good, funny or politically correct? If so, something is very much out of balance.
Common sense, respect and common decency are at issue here.
I thought The Sun would have been above this type of editorial cartooning.
Shame on you.
Peg Massey, Baltimore
KAL's Clinton-Simpson cartoon hit the nail directly on the head.
As a result of the apathetic state of public opinion, it appears that famous sports figures get away with murder, rape, assault, drug use and spousal abuse and politicians appear to get away with fraud, theft, perjury, deceit and other felonious acts.
Also, entertainers are charged with misdemeanors, felonies, abusive acts and because they are famous and popular, can afford the best legal representation available.
It is absolutely incredible and alarming that as each generation matures, a growing number of people do not care what famous and popular persons do.
KAL's cartoon should serve to awaken many to the reality of obscenities that are rapidly encroaching on the moral fiber of our society, and that if people continue to look the other way and keep accepting these acts as "so what?" one day we will wake to a country where complacency rules, the laws don't matter and future generations will consist of a "tunnel vision" mentality.
R. E. Johnson, Glen Burnie
Contrary to Barbara M. Simon's letter to the editor ("KAL's Clinton cartoon 'should not have run' "), I thought the cartoon was right on the money. It said quite simply that they both got off -- no racial tones to that.
Susan Garde, Marriottsville
Pub Date: 2/20/99