A Maryland state senator representing Prince George's County said yesterday he thinks the dismissal of county police Lt. Col. Thomas Davis, the highest ranking black officer on the force, for allegedly urging police recruiters to alter test scores of black applicants was too swift and too harsh.
Sen. Decatur Trotter made the comment after saying that he and several other black Prince George's politicians had listened to a copy of the tape recording of a conversation during which Thomas allegedy gave the instructions to the recruiters.
Trotter said he and the others will ask County Executive Parris N. Glendening "to form a blue ribbon committee to look over the disparity in discipline between white and black officers." Trotter said he knew of other high-ranking officers in the department who have run into problems but who had not been forced to quit. He declined to give examples.
Davis, 55, was forced to resign last Thursday by Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty after three officers in the police personnel department gave officials the two-year-old tape.
Trotter said Davis displayed "poor discretion and a poor choice of words," in the recorded conversation.
He said that although the quality of the recording was poor, it was clear that Davis knew he was being taped and that he asked the recruiters to change test scores. But Trotter also said he believes Davis' intent in the conversation was that the recruiters should "give aid and assistance" to blacks aspiring to the police department.
Davis has denied wrongdoing, insisting that the officers misunderstood his intent. He said he meant that the recruiters, who are black, should make extra effort to encourage black applicants to study and retake the entrance examination for the police academy if they did not pass the first time.
Trotter said he reviewed a copy of the tape last Friday with County Council members Hilda Pemberton and Floyd Wilson and State Del. Albert Wynn.
He said County Attorney Tom Smith was also present and told the group that no applicants' test scores had been changed as a result of Davis' request. "We thought that was a significant point," Trotter said.
Davis, who was appointed to his position in 1981, was in charge of personnel and recruiting and had a mandate to increase the number of blacks in the department.
The position, a political one, is very important to blacks, said Pemberton, who said she was concerned that County Executive Glendening, who was consulted before Davis' ouster, had not consulted with black officials.
Pemberton said she also wonders "why it was necessary to deal with him Davis so swiftly." She said she believes Davis was forced out before he had an adequate opportunity to tell his side of the story.