Po­lice chief on job to­day

Com­mis­sioner nom­i­nee sched­ules meet­ing with pub­lic

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Jes­sica An­der­son

On his first day on the job Mon­day, Bal­ti­more’s new act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner, Michael Har­ri­son, is ex­pected to hear a host of con­cerns, in­clud­ing from a West Bal­ti­more com­mu­nity about per­sis­tent drug deal­ing.

At the first of nine com­mu­nity meet-and­greet events Mon­day evening, Franklin­town Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Beatrice Kondo hopes Har­ri­son will ad­dress the the ex­change of cash and drugs on the cor­ners and a gas sta­tion on For­est Park Av­enue that was once known for "per­va­sive il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.”

“It’s a very sta­ble com­mu­nity over­all,” said

Kondo, whose neigh­bor­hood strad­dles the Bal­ti­more County line. But the drug-deal­ing is “an is­sue that our com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to battle.”

The ar­rival of Har­ri­son,

49, the for­mer New Or­leans po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent, fol­lows a months-long search that be­gan last May when thenCom­mis­sioner Dar­ryl De Sousa re­signed af­ter be­ing charged with fail­ing to file his in­come tax re­turns. Gary Tug­gle has been serv­ing as in­terim po­lice com­mis­sioner since May.

Among the events on Har­ri­son’s first-day sched­ule is a monthly Cabi­net meet­ing in the mayor’s ex­ec­u­tive con­fer­ence room in City Hall at 8 a.m., ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s of­fice. At 10 a.m., the mayor will in­tro­duce Har­ri­son at a news con­fer­ence. Har­ri­son will also move into his new of­fice at po­lice head­quar­ters and at­tend meet­ings with com­mand staff.

He’s also ex­pected to be fit­ted for his uni­form some­time Mon­day morn­ing, the mayor’s of­fice said.

At the end of the day, Har­ri­son will at­tend his first meet and greet event from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at For­est Park High School, 3701 El­do­rado Ave., in the North­west Po­lice

Dis­trict. The meet and greets are sched­uled through Feb. 22.

City So­lic­i­tor An­dre Davis said much of Har­ri­son’s first days on the job will be spent “meet­ing with people, mak­ing as­sess­ments.”

Har­ri­son’s wife, C.C. Har­ri­son, said the cou­ple drove to Bal­ti­more, ar­riv­ing late Thurs­day night, and were in the process of set­tling into their new home.

She said her hus­band was com­plet­ing some hu­man re­sources pa­per­work on Fri­day, while she was pick­ing up items at the store to move in.

As with any new job, the first few weeks can be chal­leng­ing. But Har­ri­son has the added test of tak­ing on what many con­sider the coun­try’s most dif­fi­cult job in law en­force­ment.

As com­mis­sioner, he’s ex­pected to help re­duce vi­o­lent crime in a city that has seen more than 300 homi­cides in each of the past four years. He’s ex­pected to lead court­man­dated re­forms un­der the con­sent de­cree reached be­tween the city and U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment to ad­dress un­con­sti­tu­tional and dis­crim­i­na­tory polic­ing. And there’s also an im­me­di­ate is­sue with a force that Tug­gle said Thurs­day was “un­der­staffed across the board.”

Har­ri­son is the first out­sider to lead the depart­ment since 2012, when Anthony W. Batts, who pre­vi­ously led po­lice de­part­ments in Long Beach and Oak­land, Calif., took the helm. The next two po­lice com­mis­sion­ers were pro­moted into the po­si­tion.

Davis said he ex­pects Har­ri­son will spend a lot of time lis­ten­ing to the com­mu­nity’s con­cerns at the com­ing meet­ings. He will also be mak­ing de­ci­sions and pos­si­bly bring­ing in ad­di­tional staff to im­ple­ment changes. Har­ri­son’s $275,000 con­tract al­lows him to build an ex­ec­u­tive team, in­clud­ing hir­ing a chief of staff and as many as eight other se­nior com­man­ders.

Har­ri­son will likely meetwith U.SAt­tor­ney Robert K. Hur in the com­ing weeks, though noth­ing for­mal has been sched­uled, said Mar­cia Mur­phy, a spokes­woman with the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice. She said Hur has called Har­ri­son and wel­comed him to Bal­ti­more.

A spokes­woman for city State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn Mosby’s of­fice said the mayor’s of­fice is ar­rang­ing a meet­ing this week be­tween Har­ri­son and Mosby.

Har­ri­son al­ready met with U.S. Dis­trict Judge James K. Bredar, who is over­see­ing the con­sent de­cree. Davis said he in­tro­duced Har­ri­son to the judge, think­ing the meet­ing would be a brief.

“They hit it off well. When I in­tro­duced them, it turned into a very sub­stan­tive hour­long con­ver­sa­tion,” Davis said.

Davis said the con­ver­sa­tion cen­tered on “com­mu­nity polic­ing, con­sti­tu­tional polic­ing.” The two also dis­cussed the Eth­i­cal Polic­ing is Coura­geous, or EPIC, pro­gram that Har­ri­son launched in New Or­leans, which trains of­fi­cers to in­ter­vene if they per­ceive pos­si­ble mis­con­duct by fel­low of­fi­cers.

Also Mon­day, Pugh is ex­pected to for­mally sub­mit Har­ri­son’s nom­i­na­tion to the City Coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive ap­point­ments com­mit­tee, which will hold a March 4 hear­ing, and then a vote at a later date.

Coun­cil­man Isaac "Yitzy" Sch­leifer said he’s sched­uled to meetHar­ri­son onThurs­day. He said he will ask Har­ri­son about his plans for re­form­ing the depart­ment and his plans to drive down crime. Sch­leifer said he will show Har­ri­son the re­sults of a re­cent poll he con­ducted among 400 city po­lice of­fi­cers from dif­fer­ent dis­tricts and of dis­trict ranks, about the state of the depart­ment.

“I feel that this sur­vey that we’ve con­ducted is the most data-driven ap­proach to what are some of the chal­lenges,” he said. “I want to ask him how he plans to ad­dress those is­sues.”

Sch­leifer said he’s pleased to see the city move for­ward and hope­fully change for the bet­ter.

“There’s cer­tainly a level of op­ti­mism be­ing that Mr. Har­ri­son has the proper cre­den­tials and ex­pe­ri­ences, so I think ev­ery­one is op­ti­mistic about the di­rec­tion that we are go­ing in,” he said. “We just want to make sure we cross our t’s and dot our i’s.”

Ashiah Parker, in­terim di­rec­tor of the No Bound­aries Coali­tion, which has long ad­vo­cated for po­lice re­form in Bal­ti­more, said sev­eral coali­tion mem­bers plan to at­tend a Fri­day meet­ing at Fred­er­ick Dou­glass High School in the West­ern Dis­trict to get to know Har­ri­son.

“We want to learn what some of his first pri­or­i­ties are, what are the best ways to en­gage with him,” she said. “We­re­ally want to use that op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten.”

Parker said she hopes he will ex­press a com­mit­ment to trans­parency and ways to keep the com­mu­nity en­gaged with the po­lice depart­ment.

“We feel cau­tiously op­ti­mistic,” she said. Kondo, the Franklin­town res­i­dent, said she, too, looks for­ward to work­ing with Har­ri­son and hav­ing a per­ma­nent leader to help ad­dress crime con­cerns like those in her com­mu­nity.

His ten­ure, she said, is hope­fully a turn­ing point for the Po­lice Depart­ment. She hopes he will pro­vide a steady hand to get things done.

“I think most of us are op­ti­mistic and hope­ful,” she said. “We­want him to suc­ceed.”

Har­ri­son

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