Vehicle for Change
A Former Baltimore Police Officer Says Report Pointing Out Department Inefficiencies Led to his Termination
Franklin, who headed the Baltimore Police Department's Human Services Division, says he was given no specific reason for the firing. Police spokesman Matt Jablow tells City Paper that Franklin was let go because "the commissioner wanted to go in a different direction." But according to a series of documents obtained by City Paper, ever since Franklin released his report on the department's vehicle fleet in July, he's faced resistance from Clark, who had been requesting that the city increase the number of cars available to police. Franklin fought to have his vehicle-reduction plan implemented, and he had the support of Mayor Martin O'Malley's closest ally, Deputy Mayor Michael Enright. But during a Jan. 16 meeting between O'Malley, top members of his staff, Commissioner Clark, and Clark's top commanders, Franklin says Clark was "embarrassed." Clark claimed he was unaware that Franklin had been exchanging e-mails with Enright about implementing the recommendations in his report, even though copies of all the e-mails had been forwarded to Deputy Police Commissioner Kenneth Blackwell. Shortly after that meeting, Franklin says, Clark sent Blackwell to his office to fire him.
CP requested an interview with Clark on the matter, but Jablow said the commissioner was too busy.
Franklin had been asked to investigate the Police Department's vehicle needs in July, shortly after The Sun ran a story about how officers were complaining because there weren't enough cars to go around. Franklin, former Chief of Special Projects Sean Malone--the man who was viewed by many officers as O'Malley's eyes and ears inside the Police Department--and a sergeant conducted a thorough review of the fleet and came up with 11 specific recommendations that they believed would immediately improve the vehicle situation.
Among the recommendations were some that went against years of tradition in the department. For example, each sworn member of the department with the rank of major and above--and civilians with equivalent jobs--is given a take-home car. Franklin's report calls for the immediate return of cars from people involved in administrative work (the report did not recommend this for those involved in operational work, as they might be called in from home to report to a crime scene or to deal with other serious situations). Franklin and Malone even recommended that their own cars be returned.
"Take-home cars," they wrote, "should be assigned as an operational necessity not a privilege of rank."
Jablow says 20 of the take-home cars have since been taken away.
Other recommendations included that low-mileage vehicles be assigned to patrol officers in the districts rather than to supervisors. It noted that the average marked patrol car has more than 56,000 miles on it, and the average marked vehicle assigned to other units, such as Traffic, has more than 100,000 miles.
"Supervisors believe that patrol officers cannot use new cars or they will be destroyed," the report indicates. "Therefore new cars are assigned to supervisors and not to patrol officers. Officers believe that the vehicles they have are in such disrepair that it does not matter how they drive."
The Police Department started to implement some of the report's recommendations on Aug. 5. But on Aug. 8, according to various documents from within the department, Lt. Col. Zeinab Rabold ordered a halt to the plan--an action Jablow denies.
"She said she recommended that we wait until our internal audit [of cars] was complete," Jablow says.
The report also raised serious questions about the number of cars assigned to the department's Organized Crime Division. As of July, the division had 268 detectives who investigate narcotics, vice, and auto theft among other things, and it was assigned 252 cars. Franklin and Malone recommended that Organized Crime return 100 cars, as its detectives usually ride with at least two people in a car.
When asked why the Organized Crime Division had so many cars and whether they would take 100 cars from that division and reassign them, Jablow responded, "OCD is a high priority. We're comfortable with the cars that are allotted."
The inability of the head of Organized Crime to answer questions regarding the number of cars assigned to his unit is what appears to have embarrassed Clark most during the meeting with O'Malley and other city officials. The Organized Crime Division was created by Clark and is headed by Anthony Romano, who Clark brought to Baltimore from New York City, where Romano served as a sergeant. Numerous sources within the department have expressed the opinion that Organized Crime gets special treatment from Clark, since the division is his creation.
On Dec. 12, Enright wrote a memo to Franklin and Deputy Commissioner Blackwell outlining the report's recommendations and asking how far they had gotten in its implementation.
On Dec. 16, Franklin answered Deputy Mayor Enright, stating that the suggestion to move low-mileage marked cars into the districts--which the report had called a "first priority"--had not been acted on. He also sent Enright copies of memos from Romano and Chief of Detectives Antonio Williams about the use of take-home cars by members of the department. Franklin ordered both men to "[i]mmediately rescind take-home privileges for those members who you already know have not responded from home to at least one emergency call-out per month."
Enright e-mailed Franklin again, indicating that the $11.5 million the Police Department spends on its fleet of cars is higher than the annual budgets of some city departments. "While I know that some within the [Baltimore Police Department] might view this as a relatively minor portion of a nearly $300M budget," he wrote, "it's been my experience that fleet management is a bellwether issue in terms of gauging the seriousness with which departments take their administrative responsibilities."
The war over gaining control of the fleet continued throughout December and right up until the Jan. 16 meeting between Clark and O'Malley. Franklin believes that his recommendations about Organized Crime's use of its vehicles was perceived as an attack, and he says, "anybody who attacks OCD is attacking the commissioner himself."
On Jan. 20, his last day on the job, Franklin wrote a memo to Clark about how the entire situation had unfolded. He noted his feeling that his criticism of the Organized Crime Division was the cause of Clark's "embarrassment" in front of O'Malley. He said that he had asked all divisions to detail their use of take-home cars.
"The Organized Crime Division was the only command that failed to respond according to my instructions," he wrote.
Franklin also says that during the meeting City Hall officials repeatedly questioned both Romano and Chief of Patrol Charles Gutberlet about how many cars each of their divisions had and that neither was able to answer. Even though he was in the room, Franklin says that no one asked him--and that all of those numbers were in his July report.
He ended his last memo at the Police Department by noting, "In closing, take a very close look at the attachment and do the right thing when it comes to holding folks accountable."
Neither O'Malley, Enright, nor Malone could be reached for comment.
Jablow says that some of Franklin's recommendations are just not possible to implement. For example, he says, the plan to rotate low-mileage cars into the patrol fleet is not workable. The Baltimore Police Department will be getting 32 new cars shortly, he says, and it does not intend to implement any more of the recommendations made in Frankin's report.
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