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Council officially considers nominee; None oppose Norris as police commissioner


The City Council officially introduced last night the nomination of Edward T. Norris as police commissioner. No opposition was raised by council members who initially expressed reservations about his selection.

The council set a hearing on the nomination for 5 p.m. May 2.

The nomination of the 20-year New York City police veteran by Mayor Martin O'Malley has sparked racial tensions. Several African-American activists worry about the impact of the "zero tolerance" strategy that Norris, 40, intends to implement in Baltimore.

Opponents contend that the crime-fighting strategy has resulted in the fatal shootings of three unarmed African-Americans by New York police in the past 13 months. A December study by the New York state attorney general's office also showed that blacks in the city were stopped 23 percent more often than whites.

Norris, a former New York deputy commissioner, has pledged to be sensitive to the concerns of Baltimore's minority communities by initiating departmentwide training on tactics, cultural sensitivity and search and seizure procedures.

Council members lauded Norris last night for his efforts to meet with residents over the past week to explain the city's new 153-page crime reduction plan.

"I think he's done a very good job," said West Baltimore Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who last week called for a briefing by Norris to address the concerns of blacks. "He's answered all the questions I have."

Before his confirmation hearing, Norris has two more community forums scheduled -- at 7 p.m. April 26 at City College, 3220 The Alameda, and April 27 at Douglass High School, 2301 Gwynns Falls Parkway.

In other action last night, the Rev. Norman A. Handy Sr., a Southwest Baltimore councilman, introduced a bill that would require telephone companies to get zoning board approval to install sidewalk pay phones.

The measure would allow the city to study whether the proposed locations would benefit drug dealers, Handy said. Requests to install pay phones also would be sent to police district commanders under the bill.

West Baltimore Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh asked colleagues to consider developing a more comprehensive plan on where drug treatment centers are permitted.

Pugh pointed to the North Baltimore Community Rehab Center, at 2225 N. Charles St. in a thriving business district on one of the city's main thoroughfares.

"I'm not so sure that's what we want people coming into our city to look at," Pugh said.

Council President Sheila Dixon urged members to watch HBO's "The Corner," a six-part series about the effects of drug addiction on a West Baltimore family. The series, which began airing Sunday night, follows a set of parents who are addicts and their teen-age son, who deals drugs on the street corner.

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