James R. Taylor, the police chief nominee in Prince George's County, appeared yesterday not to have the support of enough County Council members to ensure his appointment, according to an informal survey of council members.
Taylor, 47, the Petersburg, Va., chief who was nominated by County Executive Lawrence Hogan two weeks ago, needs the support of at least four of the 11 members to be approved at a council meeting Monday. But his nomination has been surrounded by controversy as some community leaders questioned Taylor's record working with black groups. As of yesterday, the survey showed that eight council members opposed his confirmation.
At the same time, council opposition to Taylor appeared stronger than ever following an attack on the nomination by four community groups, including the politically influential local NAACP branch and the county police union.
Several council members said yesterday they were troubled by Taylor's lack of experience with managing a large police force and his short tenure in past jobs. They also expressed concern about criticism by the NAACP and other community groups that Taylor had not been responsive to the black community in past jobs unless forced to be.
"There is a feeling that his qualifications just aren't that strong and with all this public criticism, there's no way the guy will get through," one council official said.
At a press conference yesterday, the NAACP, the Fraternal Order of Police, the local branch of National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Prince George's Concerned Clergy said their combined investigation found Taylor had conflicts with minority groups, police unions and city councils. "There is no demonstrated ability [by Taylor] to manage or provide adequate leadership to a force of this size, [840 officers] and in a county as diverse as ours. Prince George's County cannot afford to provide on-the-job training for any chief of police," the group said in its prepared statement.
The coalition said it will present council members evidence to document its criticism of Taylor by Friday.
Hogan, who has often stated that he selected Taylor because of his past good relations with the black community, said yesterday he is confident the council will approve the nomination, even with opposition by the NAACP.
"The NAACP's criticism has no factual basis," Hogan said. "We have facts, we have documents, we have names [supporting Taylor's qualifications]. All they have is innedndo."
Hogan staff members and two black community leaders who previously endorsed Taylor held their own press conference yesterday to criticize the NAACP and present affidavits that they said documented a good record for Taylor in Petersburg and in Newburgh, N.Y., where he previously served.
Although Hogan yesterday tried to minimize the impact of the NAACP criticism, Taylor's acceptance by black leaders has become a crucial issue for the council because Hogan has stressed the importance of appointing a new chief who can improve the police department's image with the black community.
"I was inclined to support Taylor because we have been leaderless so long . . . but it would be tough to go against the NAACP," one council member said.
Council Chairman William B. Amonett, who has consistently opposed Taylor as an "outsider," said yesterday: "That groups as diverse as the NAACP and the police union can come together on this issue indicates to me that this is not the person that we want." Most other council members when discussing their decisions asked not to be identified.
Taylor's confirmation apparently was still possible last week, even though Hogan and the police union president, Laney Hester, bitterly attacked each other on the police chief issue. Hester accused Hogan of trying to force him into supporting Taylor and Hogan, in turn, called Hester an "Alabama racist."
"Hester's move almost passed the guy," one council source said. "All that imbroglio made the council feel this is ridiculous, and let's just appoint the guy and get it done with."
However, the official said, with the NAACP criticism of Taylor, the council has "tipped the other way."
Hogan said, "I asked for the input [of the NAACP and other community groups] because I thought it was appropriate. I thought they would be objective and they haven't been.
"John Rhoads [the former county chief who retired in June] couldn't get appointed now. We would hear about black teen-agers getting shot, affirmative action suits (against the county) by the Justice Department and all the other things."
The joint press conference with the NAACP and the police union yesterday represented the formation of an unusual alliance that both groups conceded was temporary.
Only six months ago, the police union and black leaders were sharply divided by the case of Terrence Johnson, 16, the black Bladensburg youth who was tried for the killing of two white police officers. Union president Hester and the leader of the County Concerned Clergy, Perry Smith, bitterly attacked each other over the case during a televised debate.
However, it was the more recent split between Hogan and the police union, and the union's sharp attack on the county executive, that led the police into a common position with the NAACP.
"I never thought I'd see the day that the NAACP would align itself with (the police) who have never had any interest in police-community relations," said Cora Rice, president of the Black Women's Assembly, one of the organizations that has endorsed Taylor.