Names pile up for top officer; Council members would prefer insider to lead city police


The search for Baltimore's next police commissioner has not officially begun, but names of possible successors to Thomas C. Frazier are making the rounds in the city's law enforcement and political community.

The two candidates for the top City Hall office, Democrat Martin O'Malley and Republican David F. Tufaro, will not say whether they have a person in mind. Both said they will not make a choice until after the Nov. 2 general election.

Many City Council members interviewed said they would prefer an appointment from inside the department. Frazier, who resigned Friday to take a federal Justice Department post, was an outsider hired five years ago from California to reform the department. The City Council must confirm the new commissioner.

Both candidates said after last month's primary that they would replace Frazier, whose tenure was tumultuous and fraught with racial strife. Tufaro said that "given all the internal antagonism, it might be better to go outside."

Names being mentioned cover a wide spectrum in the department, from colonels who have generated considerable media attention to other commanders who hold jobs out of the public spotlight.

They include Col. John E. Gavrilis, the first of three acting commissioners and head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau; Leonard Hamm, a former major and now city school police chief; and Col. Ronald L. Daniel, known for his public fight over race with Frazier in 1997.

But last week's revelation that O'Malley is trying to hire Jack Maple, who rose from being a subway police officer to deputy police commissioner in New York City and is credited with revolutionizing crime fighting, brings a new dimension to the search.

Some of what Maple brought to New York -- such as computerized crime analysis and weekly crime strategy meetings -- was copied by Frazier in Baltimore.

Working as a consultant, Maple helped New Orleans through a major corruption scandal and is helping Philadelphia as it recovers from brutality charges. Some top police officials say Maple may find a different department in Baltimore -- free of pervasive corruption and implementing some of the same reforms Maple is crediting with creating.

But O'Malley wants to implement "zero-tolerance" policing -- targeting small quality-of-life crimes to prevent them from escalating into violent behavior. Over the years, he has criticized Frazier for not bringing down crime fast enough.

"Jack knows how to get his hands around crime issues," said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum. "I think cops like Jack. Ultimately, he's a supporter of theirs. He wants to see them given the tools and resources to do the job."

'Passion for this city'

In addition to Daniel, Gavrilis and Hamm, names being mentioned are Lt. Col. Marcellus Boles, associate director of the Maryland Regional Community Policing Institute; Maj. Barry Powell, who runs the crimes against property unit; Col. Robert Smith, one of the patrol chiefs; and Col. Margaret Patten, chief of the Research and Development Bureau.

Smith could not be reached for comment. Hamm and Patten said they have not been contacted. Powell declined to comment.

Gavrilis, who accompanied O'Malley to New York about three years ago to study that city's crime-fighting approach, said he has had no discussions with either candidate, but added: "I've worked all my life to be commissioner. I have a passion for this city."

Boles, a 32-year veteran, said he has concerns about O'Malley's "zero-tolerance" approach to policing. He said he thinks the approach could work in targeted neighborhoods for limited time periods, but does not want to see citywide arrests for minor infractions.

"I would not want to be in a position where I couldn't run the department in the way I thought was best for the citizens of Baltimore," Boles said. "There are quite a few people here who could be police commissioner. It's a big political process."

Incident involving race

One name that is repeatedly mentioned by City Council members and some in the Police Department is Daniel, who lost out to Frazier in 1994.

Daniel, who rose through the ranks to become the city's highest ranking African-American officer under Frazier, was ousted from his position in the Police Department two years ago by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for calling Frazier a racist in a court deposition.

For the past two years, the 25-year veteran who had commanded 2,000 patrol officers has quietly worked securing community grants in the mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice, which has a staff of five.

Daniel was a central figure in one of the most divisive issues faced by city police in recent memory.

He was suspended by Frazier in April 1997 for suggesting at a private meeting of black officers that the commissioner be replaced if he did not address internal racism. Frazier accused Daniel of leading what he called "an overthrow of the government."

Schmoke reversed the suspension, but not before black officers marched on City Hall and called for Frazier's ouster. The command staff was fractured, and a public reconciliation between the two top officers fell apart five months later when Daniel called Frazier a racist in a deposition for a discrimination suit filed by a black police helicopter pilot. The suit is pending.

Daniel, who also accompanied O'Malley to New York, declined to comment.

'An excellent reputation'

A comeback by Daniel could reopen the 2-year-old fight that exposed deep racial divisions in the department. But several City Council members said the past does not matter.

"Ron Daniel has an excellent reputation as a police officer and he cares about this city," said Councilwoman Helen Holton, a 5th District Democrat. "Colonel Daniel is certainly qualified for the job."

Sheila Dixon, Democratic candidate for City Council president and an O'Malley supporter, agreed. "I think he brings expertise that would be very positive to the city," she said, dismissing Daniel's troubles with Frazier as a "personality dispute that is now over."

Wexler of Police Executive Research Forum said Baltimore needs to move forward with its next police leader. "The person must be a visionary, one who values what Baltimore is all about and has an appreciation for effective policing," he said.

Pub Date: 10/05/99

It was incorrectly reported in yesterday's editions of The Sun that Col. John E. Gavrilis, the acting Baltimore police commissioner, accompanied mayoral candidate Martin J. O'Malley to New York in 1996 to study that city's "zero tolerance" policing strategies. Gavrilis went to New York on behalf of the department twice in 1997. The Sun regrets the error.
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