Baltimore Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel abruptly agreed yesterday to resign after holding office just 57 days, ending a contentious reign in which he refused to back the mayor's plan to fight crime.
The 26-year veteran will meet with top police officials today to officially announce his departure, which took even his closest aides by surprise. Sources said Deputy Commissioner Edward T. Norris will be named acting chief.
"Ron Daniel and I both share a commitment to make Baltimore a safer place," Mayor Martin O'Malley said in a statement.
"But we have come to the conclusion that our differences on how to get the job done make it impossible for us to collaborate in achieving that common goal.
"Therefore," O'Malley said, "the mutual commitment that brought us together now brings us to the inescapable conclusion that we must go our separate ways."
O'Malley declined to make any further comment and Daniel refused to comment last night as he attended a professional wrestling match at the Baltimore Arena with his 13-year-old son.
While Daniel's resignation surprised nearly every city official and stunned many residents, it did not come without some warning.
O'Malley had twice expressed his impatience with his leadership -- in January for not moving fast enough to fight crime and yesterday for disagreeing with a New York consultant hired by O'Malley.
Reacting last night, some politicians and community leaders blamed O'Malley's impatient style and desire to have a say in police affairs; others said the breakup was inevitable given Daniel's history of bucking authority.
A top city legislator in Annapolis expressed dismay at the timing, worrying that it could undermine efforts to obtain more state funding for drug treatment and criminal justice programs in Baltimore.
City Hall sources said Daniel could not work with $2,000-a-day crime consultants -- Jack Maple and John Linder -- who were hired by O'Malley before he chose Daniel as commissioner, and who have been busy working on department reforms.
When the Maple/Linder group offered 87 suggestions for how to reduce crime in Baltimore, Daniel rejected half, City Hall sources said. At one point this week, Daniel vowed not to put his name on the plan, a source said.
Daniel, who grew up in the city and had seen it deteriorate into one of most violent in the nation, worked to revamp a department he viewed as dysfunctional.
He quickly ousted most of the command staff and overturned programs instituted by his predecessor, Thomas C. Frazier, with whom he and then-Councilman O'Malley had openly feuded.
Last night, top police officials described the department as in confusion, and district commanders were told to stay in their offices and quickly get the word to officers to prevent rumors from spreading.
"This department has been through too damn much," said one top police commander. "This kind of stuff is disheartening. I was under the impression that things were moving quickly and in the right direction."
Now, officers are wondering whether personnel moves and other changes made by Daniel will remain. In his short time as commissioner, Daniel had turned the department upside down, named close friends to top posts and ousted many enemies.
O'Malley didn't have time to alert some close allies before word leaked out. Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the West Baltimore Democrat who was an early supporter of O'Malley's candidacy, said he found the news "startling" and appeared peeved to learn of it last night, after the fact.
"I hope that this issue will not undercut our ability to bring back the millions of dollars the city needs for drug treatment and turn around the criminal justice system in Baltimore," said Rawlings, who had objected to Daniel's appointment by O'Malley.
Rawlings' comments last night ranged from veiled criticism to support of O'Malley.
"He must be under the delusion that the man can turn around the trend of crime that has been in place for more than a decade in two to three months," he said.
"The mayor's never run a police department. I know the mayor thinks he knows how to run the court system," Rawlings said, alluding to O'Malley's battle with the state's judiciary.
No chance to take charge
Rawlings said he had heard from someone who had spoken with Daniel that there had been something of a falling-out, but he did not have firsthand knowledge of the matter.
"The criticism I heard was that the mayor and the consultants were so intrusive in the running of the police department that Commissioner Daniel never had the opportunity to be in charge and leverage his vast experience in public safety management," he said.
"I didn't recommend this guy," Rawlings said, "and I don't know all the facts, but I know Daniel is a very proud black man who wanted to contribute to public safety in his community and was willing to work very hard at it."
O'Malley has made no secret that he is impatient, and he has taken on virtually anyone he sees as being obstructionist. The mayor has set stringent goals for making the city safer -- clearing 10 drug areas in six months and cutting homicides from more than 300 a year to 175 by 2002.
He kept a close eye on the Police Headquarters building. He hired a New York crime consultant to recommend changes before he named Daniel commissioner, and also hired Norris, the director of New York's crime-fighting plan, to run the day-to-day operations of the city force.
Daniel earned the respect of the rank and file by working beside them on the street. "At least they could have given him a chance," a patrol officer said last night. "He had some good ideas in the works."
But Officer Gary McLhinney, the union president, remained supportive of the mayor.
"Mayor O'Malley has a mandate to reduce crime and do it now," the union head said. "Apparently his plans on how to accomplish this are different from Commissioner Daniel's.
"We will continue to support the mayor and his efforts to reform our Police Department and make Baltimore City a safer place to live and work."
That latest flare-up between Daniel and Maple/Linder was the first inkling many had that trouble was brewing. O'Malley gave no hint of problems at his weekly news conference yesterday morning, at which he told reporters that efforts to reduce crime were going forward splendidly.
But there was turmoil behind the scenes, as Daniel continuously rejected implementing a New York crime plan. It calls for aggressive policing that has come under fire in New York after three unarmed African-Americans were shot in the past 18 months.
A City Hall source said Daniel was becoming increasingly enraged over being asked to adopt a plan for which he had no input. Yet Daniel supported the New York-style policing plan when appointed.
At one point, Daniel questioned retaining the COMSTAT process, the computerized crime tracking system developed by Maple that has helped reduce homicides in several other American cities and is the foundation of the plan.
After spending three days trying to get the two sides to agree, O'Malley finally walked over to meet with Daniel yesterday and suggested that he step down, sources said.
"The mayor said Daniel was not just a police commissioner, but a friend," said West Baltimore Councilwoman Catherine Pugh. "But the mayor has the community's interest at heart and we have to support that."
There was no word from City Hall about a permanent replacement, though many police officials believe Norris is the odds-on favorite. Sources have said he was a top contender for Daniel's job.
But a white mayor naming a white police commissioner who advocates a policing style that is at odds with many minority groups might not sit well with some of Baltimore's leaders.
Southwest Baltimore Councilman Norman A. Handy Sr., chairman of the council Public Safety Committee, expressed concern over the New York-style policing, urging O'Malley to strike a racial balance at the top of the department.
The Rev. Douglas Miles, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and a supporter of one of O'Malley's election challengers, expressed shock last night when notified that Daniel's short tenure had ended.
He said Daniel's ouster "will be a clear indication that the honeymoon with O'Malley is ending."
Sun staff writers William F. Zorzi Jr., Tim Craig, Alison Klein and Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.