Black lawmakers grilled State Police Superintendent Col. Wilbert Travers yesterday and blamed him for perpetuating racism in the department. But the legislators ruled out asking for his resignation at this point.

"There is a perpetuation of racism in the system," said an angry Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks (D-Baltimore), as he pointed to a recent promotion of a white officer, even though that officer had been formally reprimanded for making racial remarks.

According to Oaks, the officer, 1st Lt. Roland Meerdter, looked around a crowded police cafeteria and remarked to another white officer that more blacks were there than usual. "He said, 'With all these niggers around here, we'll soon have a nigger superintendent,' " Oaks said. "And you promoted him shortly thereafter, even though you reprimanded him," Oaks told Travers.

Travers confirmed that the incident occurred and that Meerdter was promoted after disciplinary action was taken. But police spokesman Dan McCarthy said Meerdter was promoted -- while he was appealing the reprimand -- because he was "number one on the promotions list." Meerdter lost an appeal to have the reprimand removed from his file, McCarthy added.

Travers insisted that while past testing methods for hiring and promotions had been proved inadequate, he was attempting to remedy the situation.