Baltimore’s Former Police Commissioner Speaks—the Second of a Two-Part Series
Norris also talked a bit about what he believed to be Mayor Martin O’Malley’s knowledge of his spending from the supplemental fund. In this second part of the interview—which comes from four hours of interviews taped during March and April—Norris speaks about the problems he perceived in dealing with O’Malley and with the mayor’s right-hand man, Sean Malone. Norris also spoke at length about problems inside the police department, as well as why he decided to come to Baltimore.
City Paper: When you came to Baltimore, you were the deputy commissioner, the Number 2 guy. Did you really come here to be the Number 2 guy or to be the police commissioner?
Edward Norris: It was absolutely, positively to be the Number 2 guy. I was looking around the country and I wanted to be a police chief. But then again, it was decision I made with my wife regarding our life. My career is important to me, but my family is always more important to me. So at this point, we were living in New York City. Both of us had to work—you need so much money living in New York decently—and we had this brand-new baby. This was an opportunity to make a really good salary in Baltimore, with a lower cost of living, and collect my [New York Police Department] pension, which would allow my wife to stay home and raise my son, and that’s what we wanted.
It was a challenging job. So I came down because I knew the city was going to be a big challenge.
And then when [then-commissioner] Ron [Daniel] resigned after two months, I was really in a quandary, because they filled my position up in New York. I wasn’t going to be the Number 2 person for someone I didn’t know. I had respect for Daniel because he was a cop. We may have had different philosophies on policing, but he was a street cop who put handcuffs on somebody.
CP: Did you eventually want to be a New York City police commissioner?
EN: Oh yeah, that was my dream.
CP: But obviously at age 39 that was not something that was going to come to you easily at that time.
EN: No. You actually have a much better chance going out to another department, proving you can make it there, and then coming back in as either a top guy or someone interviewing from the outside with all that experience.
CP: So talk a little bit about your connection with the New York-based Linder/Maple Group, which has consulted for the O’Malley administration in regard to hiring.
EN: I didn’t know John Linder that well. I did know Jack Maple. When I worked 42nd Street, he was a sergeant in the transit police. So I did know him when I was a young cop, and then I got reunited with him. He was deputy commissioner of operations [for the NYPD], I was a lieutenant.
CP: How did the Linder/Maple Group and you and O’Malley come together?
EN: Well, the Linder/Maple Group was apparently involved with O’Malley long before I got there.
CP: That would be September 1999?
EN: Yeah. I think it may have been before then, when he was thinking he was going to win, or when he was running, but certainly after he won the primary they were in touch with each other. So they were working there for months before I got a call. It was sort of one of those things that came out of the blue. I just got a call on a Saturday from someone who identified themselves as “the mayor-elect of Baltimore.” I came down on Monday, and then I moved down about six weeks later.
CP: You came here as deputy commissioner for operations. What made you decide to come down here that quickly?
EN: These jobs are very hard to find, at the very top of the police departments. It’s like being a football coach, they’re few and far between.
Initially, I did not accept the job as Number 2 guy. I talked with the mayor and his staff and others about coming in as the operations guy, but I said: “No thanks. I’ve already got that job for the biggest department in the country, so why would I take it here?” Then I thought about it a little more, and then they got me to come down again and I took a look at the city. They knew how to push my buttons.
I mean, I don’t do this for the money—I thought I was doing the right thing. I saw the kids and the desperate conditions in huge swaths of the inner city, and I just thought it would be a place where my background could help. And then the mayor said, “Where could you make this big of a difference?”
I was looking in other cities—Denver, Seattle, L.A. were all coming open for other police chief jobs. I let them know I was interested in those, and then he showed me all this. They told me straight up and down I had interviewed for the job as police commissioner. I was told later I was the No. 1 candidate, and then flat out told that there’s no way they’re going to have a white police chief in Baltimore. And then I said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And then what I just described transpired. I discussed it with my wife. And then it seemed like a good opportunity for us as a family.
CP: You say when you came down here you did interview for the police commissioner’s job. But you were told after the interview that because of race that they could not make you police commissioner. Who interviewed you and who told . . .
EN: Sean Malone. The interview committee consisted of [then-member of the O’Malley transition team] Sean Malone, [former Baltimore police commissioner] Bishop Robinson, and an attorney [named] Brown. Sean said, “We can not have a white . . . ,” and then I responded to him. That was the interview committee.
(Mayor Martin O’Malley, through a spokesperson, declined to be interviewed for this article. Sean Malone told City Paper that although he would like to comment for this story, he felt that because he had represented the BPD when Norris was commissioner, such comment might constitute a violation of attorney-client privilege.)
CP: And when did they introduce you to Ron Daniel?
EN: I knew Ron off and on for a while. I had been to Baltimore before. Actually Ron came to see me in New York before any of this took place. He came up and had lunch. We just discussed what his vision was and what I thought I could bring to the table. I knew of him, he knew of me, I guess. But we wanted to see if we could get along without the elected officials. And I like Ron. I still keep in touch with him.
CP: Do you know why Ron Daniel quit after 57 days?
EN: No, I do not know why. I knew he was having battles with the mayor frequently. He was talking about quitting, but [I was like]” “You can’t quit. I just moved down here, you can’t leave.” I agreed to work for him, not for anybody else.
And then he calls that afternoon around 4 o’clock like he was going about his business, answering his messages, and says, “Oh, by the way, I just resigned.” Floored. [then-Deputy Commissioner for Administration Rick] Rieman’s and my jaws just dropped.
CP: So after your jaw hit the floor, when did the phone ring with the mayor putting you temporarily in charge.
EN: Shortly thereafter. I don’t know exactly what time it was. Sometime late that afternoon. They said, “Come over to City Hall, we want to talk to you.” And by the time I got there, there were already [TV] cameras at the entrance.
CP: So, when you met with mayor that day, the plan was to put you temporarily in charge and then put your name in with City Council for confirmation as police commissioner?
EN: Yeah. I made it very clear that I was not going to stay as the Number 2 guy under some guy I did not know. I agreed to work for Ron Daniel. If racial politics was going to be the deciding factor in the next police commissioner, I was going . . . I thought I deserved a shot—at the very least I wanted to be considered for the top job at that point.
CP: Once the mayor submitted your name to City Council, you faced some questioning about race, about things like the NYPD’s torture of Abner Louima. How did you feel about that?
EN: I thought the way it was done was disgusting, frankly. They ask you questions about race and notorious cases like Louima and [NYPD shooting victim Amadou] Diallo. That, of course, is legitimate. But that’s not what really happened. What happened was, I was put in front of groups of some legitimate interested citizens, but [also] many, many professional agitators that followed me from event to event. I did [these events] almost every night for I don’t know how many weeks. Some lasted up to six hours, and the questions . . . some were legitimate but some were just horrible and offensive and racist and calling me names. Nazi and fascist and [telling me], “You may not be a racist, but you sit like a racist.” It was the most bizarre experience of my life. I remember coming home, I’d worked all day and then endured this for six hours at night, and I said, “This is not for me. This place is crazy.” ’Cause, you know, race is a big part of American society, but this was up and over the top.
CP: Lisa Stancil, who is no longer a member of the City Council, did a lot of questioning about Diallo, and she also kept on demanding to see your personnel file. But when it came down to it, the council voted unanimously, including Stancil, to put you into office. Are you aware of any of the political arm-twisting that is rumored to have gone on behind that unanimous vote?
EN: No. I was never present for any so-called arm-twisting or things like that. I know [the mayor’s office] lobbied for me. Certainly they did a lot of work to make sure that council members were going to vote for me. I mean, we knew we had the votes. A lot of it is just a show for the public. The mayor is very powerful in that city. He wanted to have a unanimous vote, I guess, for a show of solidarity in the elected officials.
CP: During the time right before you were confirmed, what was it like dealing with the actual running of the department?
EN: It was very hard. It’s not just running the department. The first couple of months I was the subject of all kinds of rumors and racial epithets and protests and votes and grueling confirmation hearings. And then I was trying to get a handle on a department that was widely known to have a lot of problems, both in the management and the rank and file. Morale was bad, there were racial problems in the department, racial problems with the community, polarization of the police and the community. I was thrust into this position not knowing I was going to get it when I moved down there. And I was trying to get a hold on this thing while I was also trying to do my political duty, get confirmed as commissioner. It was extremely difficult and stressful. And a lot of that remained for the three years I was there.
CP: At the beginning you also had to get to know who your command staff was to see what kind of potential you had there. How did you do that?
EN: That was difficult. I relied on Ron Daniel a lot for that the two months that I did work for him, and even afterward. We’d got through the picture file of everybody of rank who could be promoted to a command position. He would tell me who he thought was worth something, who wasn’t. And by his own admission he said the bench is very thin here. We don’t have a lot of talent left, a lot of it’s been dripping out. I think his assessment was correct. I don’t think there were people with that much experience in the police department for that level anymore.
I made some appointments, and you learn on the fly. If you remember, at that time the city was actually going more toward 400 murders a year than 300. There was a terribly violent first half of the year, and the pressure was enormous to get things done. Pick a command staff. Get going. Bring crime down. It was just a lot to do.
CP: How many people did you bring in from New York?
EN: Let’s see. I brought John Stendrini, [John] Primitaro, and Ellen Schwartz. I was always accused of bringing in dozens and dozens, populating the community. If you remember, some of the accusations from the [City] Council were I was bringing dozens of people to fill the ranks of all the command staff. I was very careful not to put [the people I brought down] into operational positions. I put [Schwartz] into Internal Affairs, because it is an important spot and I wanted someone I knew and could trust, and then [Stendrini] was my chief of staff, which is an administrative position. [Primitaro] ran technology. I didn’t put in somebody to run the chief of detectives’ office or narcotics or patrol or any of that stuff. I think that’d be insulting to the people that worked there.
CP: How much did the mayor seem to want to be involved in the day-to-day details of the police department?
EN: Well, he was very involved. I’d speak to him many, many times during the day, and usually see him several times during the day, be it at a meeting or lunch or an evening event. We were in touch throughout the day over police issues every day.
CP: What kinds of police issues?
EN: It could be anything. It could be a crime issue, something that came up. Someone called his office about a robbery pattern or somebody had a concern. Another elected official throughout the state had something that they wanted looked at. It could be anything. It could be something that happened at the Board of Estimates. It could be anything of the dozens of things that were part of my responsibilities.
CP: From your knowledge of the New York City Police Department and knowing police commissioners from other cities, how normal is that—for the head of a jurisdiction to have that much contact with the head
EN: I would say that’s unusual. [Rudolph] Giuliani was certainly a hands-on mayor. I don’t know if his commissioners had that much contact with him, though. It was a little unusual, to be that much in touch with the city executive.
CP: How much did Sean Malone, who O’Malley put in charge of the department’s Legal Affairs Division, play into your average day?
EN: He was involved in everything. I mean, he was involved in everything. Not just through his position [in the] legal bureau. He would get involved with many, many things inside the police department. It was no secret. He was the mayor’s eyes and ears inside the PD. That’s what he was there for.
CP: You usually don’t hear the head of Legal Affairs being discussed on a daily basis by police officers in Baltimore. It’s rumored that his activities were making him disliked in the department.
EN: I think people in the command staff just felt he was involved in areas outside his purview. And it caused him to be very disliked by members of the high command.
CP: Can you give an example of something that he was doing outside of what he should have been doing in his job?
EN: Yeah. He was in charge of the trial boards in the Baltimore Police Department, and, he would get involved daily with personnel issues and transfers and promotions and the like. And, with my experience in the NYPD, the trial commissioner would be the last person to get involved in that stuff. There’s supposed to be a dispassionate, completely objective group to check the person, because they were supposed to be completely independent of the police commissioner. My only frame of reference is the New York City Police Department, but it’s the benchmark for the country, and that is how they would operate. Sean did not operate that way.
CP: Were there particular people that he tried to force you in some way to promote?
EN: He didn’t force me to promote. He would certainly champion them, yes, and also plead cases against people who I thought should be promoted. Some [of those] have become civil suits. He definitely let his feelings be known.
CP: Well, so how much influence did he have over what you were doing?
EN: None. That’s the problem. It caused a lot of friction between the mayor and I near the end of my tenure, which is actually one of the reasons that I left. Sean was reporting that I was spending too much time in the gym and not focusing on ComStat, and I resented it.
I was a police officer for 24 years. And I told this directly to the mayor. I had run the operations for the biggest department in the country for four years, and I was leading the nation in crime decline in Baltimore for the three [years] under him. And I was very resentful for someone who was a bartender-turned-attorney who happened to be running the mayor’s campaign judging when I was engaged or not. I just thought it was outrageous, and I was vocal about it.
CP: Were you made to continue to feel you were an outsider after you’d been in place for several years?
EN: People never let you forget [in this] department. Because just when I think I had a handle on something, or I’d know something, when I thought I had a good idea of what was what and what the connections were . . .
One of the things that’s the most striking was how small Baltimore was. Everyone’s related to everyone somehow. I remember I had a white police officer who was terminated for some form of misconduct, and, as always, someone would contact you to complain or make [a] case. And in this case it was a black member of the City Council approached me and told me [the officer] was a blood relative. And I was just dumbfounded. In a case I thought every member of the council would be supportive of the termination, to have one of the African-American members of the council come to me and say [the officer] was a relative just knocked me off my pins. I just started to laugh. This place is too much.
CP: Did that member of council want you to change what had been done?
EN: No, it was just a putting-a-good-word-in kind of thing.
CP: You had a small group of people working with you—not just from New York, you had some people from Baltimore who became part of your inner circle. Did you feel isolated in that circle?
EN: That’s a yes and a no. I felt isolated politically, where we were never really part of the Baltimore political landscape. We weren’t part of the inside, the very, very inside. But in public, I started to feel very comfortable in all areas of the city. I would travel. And whatever part of the city I was in, people would come up to me, recognize me, shake my hand, want to talk. I really fell in love with the city. I loved living there. I was a part of the city. But never the political part.
Unfortunately [for the politicians], things were going well crimewise. Morale was up in the police department, crime was down, all the indicators were going in the right way. We were getting national recognition. They certainly couldn’t oust me for performance. And you could just tell I displeased them. So any chance they’d get to nick me up a little bit, they would take the opportunity. And then, of course, when the world caved in on me, people jumped on me with both feet.
CP: You’ve worked for both Martin O’Malley and Robert Ehrlich. What do you think of them as administrators and as people?
EN: I think they’re both very capable. That’s pretty clear. O’Malley’s a two-term mayor, and Ehrlich is the governor [in] one of the most important governor seats in the country.
CP: When you went over to Maryland State Police, how frequently was Ehrlich contacting you? I realize it’s a different kind of police agency and had different kinds of concerns . . .
EN: The governor’s office contacted me very infrequently. I was a member of the cabinet, so I had cabinet meetings. I had a lot of contact with him only because of unusual events when I was superintendent. We had a hurricane, a blizzard, and the power-grid outage on the East Coast. I had a lot of contact with the governor on a professional level, but certainly not daily. It was nothing like being city police commissioner.
CP: What did the mayor say when that first article came out in The Sun about the supplemental account?
EN: He was actually very supportive. I was very honest with him—I told him where the spending was, what the account was used for, and I asked him if he wanted me to resign because of it. And he said: “Absolutely not. Of course not.” He said we’d get through it, and that this happens in these jobs. You can’t watch everything.
The people who should have been watching this fund certainly didn’t. There shouldn’t have been $12,000 in receipts missing over three years. And I think he was extremely angry, because, obviously, between me and the administration of this fund, there are many, many people of high rank who are responsible for the day-to-day administering of it. I had no idea who signed for what receipts and what was submitted and not submitted.
CP: Well, although the mayor did publicly stand up for you when this was first printed in The Sun, he never said that he was also, in his own way, partaking of the fund.
EN: Well, he certainly had dinner on the fund. And other members of the City Hall staff. Many members of the police department. And the fact is, I got indicted for going to three Orioles games, I believe—two or three were in the indictment. The mayor was at both of them. The mayor and his staff attended the same games [that I went to] with my command staff, that I went to prison for. And to this day I don’t understand it.
CP: You were indicted for taking, I believe, the police chief of Seattle out to dinner when the indictment claimed that you had not taken the police chief out. There were other things that were clothing purchases that seemed to be police-related—clothing purchases, things like that—where you were actually indicted on those along with the stuff regarding the women. Were any of those expenditures legitimate expenditures?
EN: I think they were all legitimate. I’ll tell you what they were. I went to dinner with Gil Kerlikowske . . . police chief of Seattle. . . . He was in town on business. I took him to Ixia. I submitted the receipt after dinner. If you read the indictment carefully, all it says was: “We contacted the police chief of Seattle. He said he did not have dinner with the commissioner that night.” I’ve only submitted one receipt from Ixia in the fund ever. I took the police chief of Seattle. Whether or not it was that day or a week later or whatever or there was a mistake on the receipt or it was a mismatched or what, the fact is, if a good investigator asked him that second question, “Did he take you to that restaurant?,” the answer would obviously be, “Yes.”
As far as the other purchases, the papers reported that I brought dress shoes for personal use and a personal gift for myself. If you look closely, again, both items were [purchased on] September 12, 2001—the day after 9/11. I was on patrol, doing my job, working 24 hours a day. I was in battle dress fatigues, and I had no combat boots to wear with them, which is what you need. I went to Dan Brothers and I bought combat boots. That’s what’s referred to as “dress shoes for personal use.” And I bought a rescue tool—they’re called police rescue tools—and I bought it at the Chesapeake Knife and Tool in case I had to cut somebody out of a vehicle or—we had no idea what was coming next. And then I bought what was called “custom dress shirts for personal use.” They weren’t dress shirts, they weren’t custom-made. They were extra shirts. They were police shirts, with shoulder patches and epaulets. And not only are they for police use only—you cannot wear them off-duty, obviously. I paid for half of them out of my own checking account. There was a check, and there was a notation on them that says I paid half. Check 292 from the [supplemental] account. I just estimated the cost of what a regular shirt would cost the department and what these shirts would cost. I gave $231 of my own money, thinking I was doing the right thing. And I was indicted for that as well. So I think you’re getting an idea of what some of the purchases were.
(Contacted by City Paper, Kerlikowske confirmed that Norris had taken him out to dinner, though he couldn’t remember the date, and that he had told investigators that Norris had taken him out to dinner.)
CP: Who originally told you about the existence of the supplemental account?
EN: There were several people present in my office. I was looking to create a police foundation, and I said the purpose was I wanted to travel to other cities and bring people in who had created police foundations, to see how we could, so I could raise money through a 501(c)(3). And in the room were [then-Deputy Commissioner] Bert Shirey, [then-BPD finance director] Ed Ambrose, Sean Malone, I believe, John Stendrini, my chief of staff, and myself, but I believe we were all present when it was discussed. I believe Ambrose brought it up, and Shirey, they both seemed to know about it.
CP: So that’s when you first learned of its existence?
CP: In late September, early October of 2002, you and I had breakfast one morning. We had a conversation off the record, and the first thing I said to you was, “So when are you leaving?” And you said, “As soon as I can find someplace else to go.” Can you talk about why? What had happened to your relationship with the mayor over this time?
EN: Well, it wasn’t one thing. It was many things. And it’s unfortunate, because I think we made a good team. And it wasn’t—my relationship with the mayor was actually still good at the time. But what happens is staff gets in the way. Either people are jealous of your close relationship with the mayor—or my close relationship with the mayor—or my success. And there was a lot of, I believe, sabotage going on, where people were saying, you know, “Are you a Norris guy or an O’Malley guy?” And that caused a lot of problems because it became a joke, but not all things are said in jest. And I wanted to make it clear I was not in competition with the mayor. I work for him. I can’t help that I became popular in the city. But apparently it really bothered people in City Hall. And then all the other stuff.
I don’t know who was actually funneling the stories to The Sun with the discretionary account. Every day it was something else, and it becomes very hard to live that way. People only see you as . . . you’re on TV, you make a lot of money, you’ve got a great job, your life is good. But I’m a husband and a father, I’m a human being. And it became very hard to maintain my health at the time. The pressure was just enormous, and I just got tired of it. I felt like I had done a good job for the city and this is not the way I should be treated by anybody. I gave them a good day’s work—whatever they think of me—and good product every day I went in, and I didn’t think I deserved to be treated that way.
I told [the mayor] I was going to be gone after the New Year. And it just so happens the governor offered me the State Police job.
When I had lunch with [Ehrlich], I had no idea he was offering me a job. We had a very casual—I had spoken to the governor many times as a congressman—I spoke to him when I had trouble with [U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service], when we took those eight guys off at Labyrinth Road. He got them rearrested when the feds released them.
CP: Can you just briefly say what that was?
EN: Yeah. On September 10 of 2002, a year anniversary almost to the day of 9/11, the warrant squad went out and hit a house on Labyrinth Road [in Northwest Baltimore] for a [threatening to commit] arson warrant, and in the house they found eight men . . . from countries we’re very interested in. Unusual for them to be all hanging out at the same place. The apartment was sparsely furnished, and there were passports everywhere, a lot of documents and computers.
They were brought in for various violations, one guy for the warrant, the other for INS violations, and on the hard drive we find, very interesting . . . for hundreds of hours the prior week, they were searching web sites called beapilot.com, learntofly.com, they had pictures of airplanes, pictures of local airstrips in Maryland, and a tremendous amount of information. And yet they were released by INS, [which said it] had no real reason to hold them. So I went to then-Congressman Ehrlich—actually he contacted me. And I told him the story, and he just, he torched them, got them off their asses and got them to go out and rearrest these guys, which they did. So I was already familiar with him.
So at the lunch—fast-forward to 2002 in December—he asked me what I thought the State Police could do to make crime go down in the city, how could they assist city police, and I gave him my views. And he said, “Would you be interested in the job?” And I said, “Yeah, of course I would.”
It served two purposes for me: I loved being a police officer—it’s all I ever wanted to do—and it allowed me to stay in Maryland. I wanted to raise my son in Baltimore. Even when I had the State Police job, I lived in Mount Washington. So I intended to stay in Baltimore, run the State Police hopefully for eight more years. Unfortunately it didn’t work out.
(City Paper attempted to check the accuracy of Norris’ statements with Gov. Robert Ehrlich. After asking CP to submit all questions in advance—a request that was denied—the governor’s press office refused any comment for this story.)
CP: The day it started leaking out to the press that you were going to take that job, the mayor was holding a press conference, and he claimed that he had not heard anything at all from you regarding this.
EN: That’s untrue. I spoke to him personally. I had a one-on-one conversation with him. The governor called while I was in the office discussing this with him. And then I called him the morning after [that]—whenever was the morning before he did the press conference, before it was released, I told him. I didn’t see him in person, but I did call him on the phone.
CP: He says, even long after, that he still had never discussed this with you.
EN: That is completely, completely untrue. We discussed this privately, obviously.
CP: How did the mayor hear about Kevin Clark? Because he’s made it clear that Clark was not anybody you had recommended, that his name came from the Linder/Maple Group.
EN: Well, the Linder Group got him from me. How would anyone in the Linder Group know of a midlevel manager in the NYPD? It’s a 50,000-person agency.
The fact is I asked Kevin Clark to come down as my Number 2 guy several times. And I made the mayor aware of that, and I made John Linder aware of it. I wanted to bring Kevin in to run operations when I was the police commissioner. And actually, when [John] McEntee was the acting police commissioner [after I resigned], Kevin called me a couple of times to ask about finding a lawyer in town because he was being offered the job. So he was in frequent contact with me when he was being courted by the mayor.
CP: Were you aware during that time period that McEntee had been told he was going to be the next police commissioner?
EN: Yeah. I mean, I’ll be very candid. I was the one who broke the news to McEntee that Clark had been promised the job and he was seeking to sign a contract. John was my friend, and he’s still my friend, and I felt it would be disloyal for me not to tell him what I knew. So I called him and I said, “I don’t want to be the one to break this to you, but I think that guy from New York is going to get the job.” And he said, “Well, I’d rather hear it from you than the Baltimore Sun.” So he was thankful, but that was the quote.
CP: And Kevin Clark was in the mayor’s office signing whatever he initially signed as a contract while McEntee was in City Council chambers testifying on something that he believed . . .
EN: A confirmation hearing, sort of.
CP: . . . that he believed was basically was a rehearsal for his testimony to be police commissioner.
EN: Right. I know. I was at a party at a friend’s house, and Kevin called me and said, “I got the job, I just signed a contract.” And I told him, “Congratulations.” And I called John and I said, “Look, I’m telling you”—because he still wasn’t for sure what was going on—and I said, “I’m telling you, I just spoke to Kevin, and he’s getting the job.”
CP: How many times did you talk to Kevin Clark after he got the job?
EN: Very infrequently. Maybe once or twice, and then it became very formal. It was obvious. [His] letters were being written in styles I recognized from various staff members when I was there. Things went from “Kevin” and “Eddie” to “Dear Colonel” and “Commissioner.”
CP: I want to get back to Sean Malone for a minute, because he continues to hold a great deal of power in the O’Malley administration as the city’s Labor Commissioner. How much was Malone’s behavior affecting your ability to get the job done?
EN: Well, at the end it was affecting it tremendously. He became the major point of contention between me and the mayor. To get back to what I said before, his behavior and his speaking to the mayor about things he perceived as my shortcomings regarding operational decisions or whatever it could be, caused me tremendous problems.
CP: It seemed to me like a lot of time and energy was being taken from police officers because they were worried about having to deal with the politics involved.
EN: That’s right. And that was a big part of my job, was trying to allay their fears.
Police officers are very perceptive, and they didn’t like . . . even if they wanted to criticize me, it was OK for them to say it but not anybody else, because they were members, they were the initiated. And I remember when we purchased four helicopters. They gave a leather jacket, a bomber jacket, one to me and one to the mayor with the patches on it and all that stuff. Somebody [in city government] wanted one of the leather jackets. So the mayor went over to one of my security detail, asked for my jacket, and gave [it] to her.
It made me angry, and I went over and I talked to [O’Malley’s then-chief of staff Michael] Enright, and I said, “Listen, you can’t do stuff like that, because it’s a very disrespectful thing.” First, she’s not popular with the police department. And then to see something taken from the police chief, the commissioner, and given to her. It was embarrassing to everybody. You just don’t do that. It’s not the jacket. I’ll get plenty of jackets. It’s the idea that you don’t do things like that in front of the rank and file because they’re very intuitive and it sends the wrong message.
[The officers] were always fearful. Their concern was going home at night, staying alive, protecting the people in their community, and mine was to deal with the politics and protect them. That was my role. Theirs was to protect the people, mine was to protect the police.
CP: Over my years of dealing with the mayor, he personally seems to like police officers.
EN: Yeah, [O’Malley] always seemed to be sincere in my dealings with him. But I think many people in his immediate circle are very distrustful and cynical and plainly didn’t like cops. And I think that that comes through in meetings and the like.
CP: Ever since the supplemental account became public and the second audit, the mayor has seemed to stand back and take a whack at you.
EN: Yes. That’s pretty clear.
CP: Did that start privately . . .
EN: Absolutely not. He never, ever privately chastised me for that fund.
I tell you how convinced I am this was orchestrated by people in City Hall. When I departed for the State Police, we spoke, and he actually gave me a gift. We had a lot of fun together, and one of his nicknames for me was “Grant.” When I was having good weeks he called me “General Grant,” because Grant was effective and all that stuff. And he gave me a very beautiful framed portrait of U.S. Grant and signed it on the back, you know: “Thank you for all you’ve done for the city of Baltimore. Good luck.” And we parted, I thought, amicably. And then about two weeks later . . .
CP: When did he give that to you?
EN: Immediately after my separation from city service. It was like the week or the second week [after] I left. It was right before things went sour.
CP: At the August 2003 press conference that announced your indictment, one of the Sun reporters asked then-U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio what made them start the investigation in January, and he said that his office had had a complaint from a “citizen” who he did not identify. He also said he had no more information in January 2003 than he did when The Sun published its articles in August 2002. Do you believe that that citizen was “just a citizen”?
EN: No, of course not. Of course not. Clearly it was politically motivated. The account had been closed for some time. I had paid back $10,000 or $8,000 at that point, anything that was questionable or deemed missing. And this was put to bed. No matter if I bought $10,000 worth of bubble gum, if it’s a discretionary fund, by their own admission. Certainly the average citizen did not come forward with any new information. There was no new information. Nothing had changed.
CP: What do you think the final historical view of your stewardship of the Baltimore City Police Department?
EN: (laughs) Well, that depends. History is written by the victors. But I think a lot of it has come out now, or at least it’s slowly coming out, about what may have happened during my tenure as police commissioner. Things that are unheard of, like the censuring of a U.S. Attorney [DiBiagio] publicly by the Justice Department, prohibiting him from doing public corruption cases after mine, is absolutely never done. And, you know, now the City Council [ethics] case has been dropped. I’m limited in what I can say, but I think the village idiot knows what happened here.
I just hope when people remember me . . . I went into this business for all the right reasons. I moved to Baltimore not to become the police commissioner but to actually save lives. I wanted to benefit the people who lived in the city and my family. I think I gave a really good shake for three years. I worked very hard to do it. And I don’t think a lot of other men would have. I don’t know anyone who would have endured what I went through to get confirmed, and what I went through daily just to get my job done. But I got it done. Crime was down, morale was up, and I just don’t think I quite deserved what I got.
I hope people weigh things and balance. They can believe anything they want. I just want them to know I did all these things, and I hope they look at the facts and see some of the things I really purchased and not what they read in the Baltimore Sun. I just hope people can make their own intelligent decisions about my legacy and don’t give in to a newspaper like that in a one-newspaper town.
CP: Moving from Baltimore to Tampa, I assume that that’s made some things easier for you all.
EN: It’s funny, it’s made some things easier and some things harder. The indictment put so much pressure on my family it became unbearable. I didn’t want my son to be subjected to that at school. You wouldn’t want your family to get hurt by your behavior and misfortune, so we moved here.
The problem is, conversely, now that all these other things are starting to come out and people are starting to see what really was the motivation of the investigation, what the possible motivations were, the evidence, and the things that have come out since my guilty plea and imprisonment and release and all, it’s easier to talk to people in Baltimore because they’re much more sympathetic. People in Tampa who don’t know—they understand government conspiracy and they relate to the Martha Stewart aspect. A powerful person being taken down is a common thing in this country. But the people in Baltimore who actually saw it and lived through it and know what the local politics are are much more accepting and incredibly supportive.
I tell you, I got letters from people in prison I never met who said, “Look, we know what this is a about. You’re a good man.”
One of the most poignant moments of the whole thing was right after I took the guilty plea and I was sitting at BWI with tears coming out of my eyes. My career has been destroyed. And I order a bourbon at the bar. And I’m waiting for my flight. And the barmaid gives me the drink and she says, “There’s no charge.” And I look at her. And she’s like, “I know who you are. My city was safe when you worked here. You’re still OK in my book.”
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