A former city police major, who is chief of Morgan State University's force, will take over next month as the No. 2 commander of the Baltimore Police Department.
Leonard Hamm said he met yesterday with Commissioner Kevin P. Clark and agreed to accept the job of deputy commissioner of operations.
The 55-year-old Baltimore native said he hopes to help stop the rumored decline in morale within the department. He said he has seen too many experienced officers depart.
"Everybody can't leave," Hamm said. "I live in this town, and everybody can't walk away."
Local police union President Dan Fickus praised the hire, declaring it a strategic shift toward bolstering the department's street patrol division.
Hamm is best known by fellow officers as an advocate for patrol, Fickus said.
Baltimore police spokesman Matt Jablow declined to comment yesterday.
The department has scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference today.
Hamm said the commissioner was looking for assistance and kept hearing Hamm's name.
"The commissioner needed some help because he's from New York and because he's new," Hamm said.
After a more than 20-year career, Hamm retired from the department in 1996.
Since then, he has served as a deputy director of public safety for the Downtown Partnership, a group that promotes business; chief of police for city schools; and director of police for Morgan.
Among other achievements during his city police career, Hamm was named the first African-American commander of the Central District, which includes downtown.
City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. said Hamm will provide local knowledge to Clark, who was hired last year from the New York Police Department.
"You've got a guy who's right here in our back yard," Harris said. "Why not tap him onto the team?"
Hamm and Clark had their first serious discussion about the job Monday, Hamm said. He asked some questions regarding his benefits and responsibilities and was satisfied yesterday with the commissioner's answers.
He declined to disclose what his salary will be.
Hamm joins the department as it is reporting a drop in violent crime, but the number of homicides remains on pace with last year's total of 271.
Until last year, the homicide total had dropped every year since Mayor Martin O'Malley took office in 1999.