Ehrlich, legislators iron out pact in racial profiling case


Black lawmakers emerged from a closed-door meeting with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday confident that a settlement in a decade-old racial profiling case would be resolved within a month.

Cooperation among Ehrlich, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and African-American legislators will likely mean that state police Superintendent Edward T. Norris will be confirmed by the Senate today.

Norris' nomination had been postponed by some senators troubled that the former Baltimore police commissioner might block a proposed settlement in a case alleging that state police improperly singled out black drivers for highway traffic stops.

The settlement was scheduled for approval by the state Board of Public Works last month, at the board's final meeting before Ehrlich's inauguration.

But Ehrlich asked that the decision be delayed, raising questions about provisions such as the contents of a pamphlet that police would give to drivers, and the composition of a police-citizen panel to deal with profiling complaints.

After yesterday's meeting, Sen. Lisa A. Gladden of Baltimore said she was satisfied that Ehrlich and Norris want "no substantive changes" to the agreement. She also said she would not seek further delay of Norris' confirmation.

"There are at least five to 15 points in the agreement that the governor does not agree with," she said of the profiling case. "And his people are now starting to recraft some of those languages," Gladden said.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele concurred. "We believe that all the major obstacles and concerns are out of the way," he said.

Jervis S. Finney, Ehrlich's legal counsel, will draft changes to the settlement and present them to lawmakers and others within a week, Steele said.

"We want to make sure we get it right," he said. "We want to deal with the issue of racial profiling."

Steele, Finney and lawmakers would not reveal the specific portions of the settlement that would be altered.

Finney said he had spoken with U.S. District Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm, overseeing the profiling case, and that "we got a favorable impression" that the judge would accept the changes.

Before meeting with lawmakers, Ehrlich met yesterday with representatives of the NAACP, who also said they were satisfied. "We want the governor to be comfortable with it, because we want him to be committed to it," said Edythe Flemings Hall, president of the state NAACP conference of branches.

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