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Departure of ranking city police continues; 18-year veteran is latest in series of retirements


Another Baltimore police colonel has announced his retirement, continuing a stream of high-level departures since January, when a new commissioner took over and began to reorganize the force and reinvigorate efforts to stem violent crime.

Col. Timothy J. Longo Sr., 37, said yesterday that he will leave the department March 10. The 18-year veteran is stepping down two years shy of being eligible for a full pension.

"This is a positive move for me personally," said Longo, who met with Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel a week ago. "He was very complimentary of what I could contribute to this agency. As a result of the conversation, I felt it was in my best interest and his for me to seek an early retirement."

Longo was well-regarded as a young commander who began his career as an 18-year-old cadet, earned a law degree while on the force and rose quickly through the ranks. He would not detail his discussions with Daniel, saying he did not want to add to distractions that occur with sweeping personnel changes under way.

Two new deputy commissioners are at work, and only two of the six colonels who were in place when Daniel took over remain on the force: Margaret Patten and Bert Shirey.

Police commanders say that the department's upper echelon should be solidified in the next several weeks. Permanent replacements for the departing colonels have not been named, though Daniel has pared eight slots to five.

The nine district commanders who were in place when Daniel's predecessor, Thomas C. Frazier, left last year remain at their jobs, though that is expected to change. "We're just waiting," one district commander said yesterday. "You will see some major promotions and some major retirements."

Daniel said yesterday that moves are occurring in stages, and he expects promotions ranging from sergeant to colonel to be made within 30 days. "We need some permanency in these positions as we build our leadership team," he said.

The shake-up occurs as the department faces pressure from City Hall and the public to quickly reduce homicides and attack open-air drug markets.

Daniel said he plans to move many investigators -- excluding homicide detectives -- to the nine station houses, where they will answer to district commanders.

"It will be a significant departure," the commissioner said. "We will be doing business a different kind of way."

Top commanders at headquarters acknowledge they are demanding more from officers. "The tension level is up," Shirey said. "I think it will go even higher. Getting these murders down and drugs off the street is no easy task. The pressure is on from the top to the lowest level."

Shirey, 55, had planned to leave March 9. He filed his retirement papers this month but withdrew them yesterday after returning from a two-week vacation, during which he reported to work almost every day.

"This place is really lighting up," said Shirey, a 34-year police veteran.

Anticipating Shirey's departure, Daniel temporarily filled the colonel's job as chief of the patrol bureau with Maj. Elmer Dennis. Shirey said he is not sure what his new assignment will be.

Other recent retirements include Maj. Ronald Savage, who headed the Internal Investigation Division; Robert W. Weinhold Jr., director of public affairs; and Jerome Nicholas, the department's legal affairs director.

The departing Longo joined the police force in 1981. He has commanded the Southeastern District, worked in internal investigations, headed the communications division and was Frazier's chief of staff. He was promoted to colonel in March.

As head of the technical services division, he oversaw the $32 million construction of the police headquarters annex and implemented the nation's first 311 nonemergency phone system, which has been copied in several major cities.

Longo was most recently called upon to explain a new warrant initiative after officials discovered that thousands of people wanted by police had never actively been sought. He plans to seek a police chief position elsewhere.

"I have a passion for what I do," he said.

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