- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

BALTIMORE — Mayor Martin O’Malley said he fired police Commissioner Kevin Clark because the domestic-abuse accusations against him were too much of a distraction from the fight against crime.

Mr. Clark, who was involved in a domestic dispute with his fiancee in May, faced similar accusations when he served in the New York City Police Department. He was fired yesterday.

Mr. Clark said the situation was “regrettable” and that there would be “recourse” in the matter. He declined to comment further.

The mayor has named Leonard Hamm as interim commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department and said he expects the appointment will be made permanent.

Mr. O’Malley has made reducing the city’s violent crime the centerpiece of his administration, but critics say the efforts have been hampered by instability at the top position. Commissioner Hamm will be Mr. O’Malley’s fourth appointment in four years.

Mr. O’Malley said his line of communication with Mr. Clark had been “taking its hits” and was “very strained.”

“It was time to move forward and move on,” he said.

Mr. Clark, 48, was placed on voluntary leave while the most recent incident was being investigated by the Howard County Police Department, which found that possible charges against him were “unsubstantiated.”

The Baltimore Sun and WBAL-TV filed a lawsuit when Mr. O’Malley first refused to release the report. The mayor’s office released the report on Nov. 2 after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state’s second-highest court, ruled that it should be made available to the press.

“The distraction around Commissioner Clark and the allegations made in May and the loss of the case in the Court of Appeals promised to make it an even greater distraction and distracted all of us from the issue of crime-fighting,” Mr. O’Malley said.

The mayor’s first commissioner, Ronald L. Daniels, complained about interference from “New York consultants” and resigned after 57 days. Mr. O’Malley then promoted one of the consultants, Edward T. Norris, who had been brought in from New York to implement a system of close-statistical tracking and analysis of crime.

Mr. Norris left to become state police superintendent, then resigned from the job after being indicted on charges of misusing Baltimore city police funds.

Mr. Clark served as a commander with the New York City police department before being appointed by Mr. O’Malley in January 2003.

Mr. O’Malley’s comments yesterday focused more on his success in reducing crime.

“I would not say I’m 0 for 3,” he said. “I would not say Baltimore is 0 for 3. I would say there has been a 40 percent reduction in violent crime.”

City Council President Sheila Dixon supported the mayor’s decision to fire Mr. Clark but said the changes have cost the department a number of experienced officers.

“Daniels got rid of some people,” she said. “We’ve lost some good leadership. Then Norris brought in some people over the top of people here. So, in that respect, we lost a lot of experienced people we could use.”

Mr. O’Malley said Commissioner Hamm will bring stability and respect to the department.

Commissioner Hamm, 55, was named the department’s No. 2 official in August. He spent more than 20 years with the department before retiring in 1996, and later worked as head of the Morgan State University police force.

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