The City Council voted unanimously last night to confirm Kevin P. Clark as police commissioner, praising his experience as a former narcotics enforcement commander in New York City's Police Department.
Mayor Martin O'Malley picked Clark for the job in January after Commissioner Edward T. Norris, another former New York officer, quit after about 2 1/2 years to accept a job from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as superintendent of the state police.
"Commissioner Clark came highly recommended by Commissioner Norris, and I think they are very similar in their crime-fighting strategies," said council Vice President Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake. "I agree [with Clark] that open-air drug markets should be the next focus of our Police Department."
During a hearing before a council committee last week, Clark - who will earn $150,000 a year - promised to issue more fines for minor crimes such as drinking in public, train more undercover drug investigators and reorganize the narcotics division.
The hearing was less tense than the contentious meeting in 2000 during which the council grilled Norris on his plans for "zero tolerance," New York-style policing.
Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, chairman of the Executive Appointments Committee, said last night that the council's swift and easy confirmation of Clark had nothing to do with Clark's race, as a few have suggested. Norris is white; Clark is African-American, as is the majority of city residents and council members.
"It had nothing to do with the color of his skin," Young said of Clark. "It's just that a lot of people in the community did not come out [against Clark]. ... This body will hold his feet to the fire just like we held Commissioner Norris' feet to the fire to make sure ... that we are all treated with dignity and respect."