Baltimore's police Commissioner-designee Edward T. Norris is refusing a city councilwoman's request to review his personnel file, which spans two decades of service in New York City.
Norris said he is not hiding anything and has answered almost every question posed during weeks of hearings and community meetings, including assuring people that he goes to church. The acting commissioner said the New York file has detailed information about his personal life and his wife and child. He fears releasing such information is irrelevant to his job and could jeopardize their safety.
"My record is spotless as a police officer," Norris said Friday. "I've never had one hour of discipline meted out against me. I have never fired my weapon once in the line of duty, and I spent 16 years doing dangerous jobs."
Councilwoman Lisa Stancil, vice chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, has asked for the file several times and said she will do so again tomorrow at Norris' City Council confirmation hearing.
"I think it's very important to know as much about the nominee as possible," Stancil said. "I think the City Council has a responsibility to know as much as it can. I want to know more about him. I believe that asking these questions is our responsibility."
Though many of the 19 City Council members say that Norris has the votes to become the next police commissioner, his hearing tomorrow and the full vote by the City Council next week could have vigorous debate. Concern has been expressed that the former deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department will implement an aggressive style of policing that has led to abuse in that city. Norris has spent dozens of hours at community meetings to ease those concerns.
Mayor Martin O'Malley has taken the unusual step of sending letters to residents asking them to call their City Council representatives and urge them to vote for Norris.
Debate could center on a struggle for middle ground in finding a strategy to reduce Baltimore's homicide rate of nearly one a day without turning the city into a police state. Stancil said she hopes to learn more about how Norris might implement his strategy by reviewing his file, though she added that she has no idea what it might contain and does not suspect anything sinister.
"I'm interested in knowing who he is and what job he has done, and his philosophy of policing," she said. "There have been constituents who have called me and said, "I want to know more about him.' "
But some of Stancil's colleagues are calling the request unreasonable. The two previous commissioners, Thomas C. Frazier from California and Ronald L. Daniel from Baltimore, were not asked to provide their personnel records.
"Why is this guy any different?" asked Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., a 1st District Democrat.
City Council President Sheila Dixon, the second-highest elected official in Baltimore, said Norris should keep his file secret. "I wouldn't release my personnel record," she said. "We have a resume on Mr. Norris. The Police Department did a background check."
Stancil is the only council member seeking the information, Dixon said. "My colleagues feel confident that Mr. Norris will do a good job," she added. "We've already said that if he doesn't produce, his head is on the chopping block."
Norris, 40, invited anyone to call or visit New York and talk to the people he has worked with. He said people need to realize that he rose to the near-top of the 40,000-member department in less than 20 years to become the youngest deputy chief ever.