The job of Prince George's County police chief has been offered to James R. Taylor, police chief of Petersburg, Va., by Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan.
Taylor 47, heads an 85-member police force -- about a tenth of the size of the Prince George's police department -- in a city 120 miles south of Washington that has a majority black population.
Hogan decided to select Taylor, who is white, from the four finalists for the job, according to sources, because he had demonstrated skill a police-community relations, scored highest on a battery of tests and is from outside the Prince George's police department.
Reached last night, Taylor confirmed he is a candidate for the job but would not comment on his standing among the four finalists.
If Taylor accepts Hogan's offer, his selection may prove controversial. A majority of the County Council -- which must ratify Hogan's choice -- and the local Fraternal Order of Police union have opposed bringing in an outsider.
Sources said a major factor that led Hogan to make the offer was Taylor's apparent ability to deal successfully with community groups, including blacks. According to sources, shortly after Taylor became police commissioner in Newburgh, N.Y. -- the job he held before going to Petersburg -- he successfully calmed a racial incident and received a citation from a local human relations commission.
Hogan has repeatedly expressed concern that the county police force has an image problem with the community. " have to appoint a chief that the black community is comfortable with," he has said.
The image problem stems from a histroy of police brutality complaints in recent years. A particular source of controversy was the trial last spring of Terrence Johnson, a 16-year-old black youth who was acquitted of first-degree murder but convicted of manslaughter in the shooting deaths of two county police officers who johnson claimed had beaten him.
In an interview yesterday, Taylor said he had a good rapport with the black community and that he had chosen to work in Petersburg because he wanted experience in a community with a large minority population.
Taylor's actions in Petersburg have not been without controversy.
According to news reports, the Petersburg City Council narrowly failed to recommend Taylor's dismissal after he administered polygraph tests to police recruits, contrary to policy established by the council. Sources said Hogan is aware of the problems Taylor has had with the local council.
Another factor in Taylor's favor, sources, said, was his performance in a day-long series of tests given to the four finalists last Wednesday by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Sources said Taylor, who got little sleep the night before because of a shooting incident, still managed to out-perform the others.
The other finalists are Rice Turner, an 18-year veteran of the county force; Frank Mazzone, a Maryland state police captain, and David Hooper, police chief of Roanoke, Va.