At last night's black-tie banquet and dance honoring D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. for 30 years of service in the city's police department, the tributes and proclamations dwelt upon comments of size and stature.
To the dignitaries and police officials among the 600 people who attended the event at the Capital Hilton, including Mayor Marion Barry and D.C. Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), Turner is a big man in possession of a big heart and big accomplishments.
But perhaps most fittingly, Turner was described by his brothers and sisters as the "big brother," whose understanding, compassion and leadership in his family was the antecedent for the immense respect he garners from the community.
Capt. Karl Turner, the chief's younger brother, who has been on the city police force for 18 years and is assigned to the 3rd District as support captain, said, "He's always been the big brother, the leader of the family."
Karl Turner became ill while working on a detail at last weekend's Hispanic Festival, and, while he was being treated for an allergic reaction to shellfish, doctors discovered that he has leukemia. But, looking dapper and fit last night after being discharged from a hospital, Karl Turner said he would not miss his brother's banquet "for all the tea in China."
"I'm so proud," he said. "I'm out of the hospital today sharing this enjoyable occasion with my brother, family and friends. All my inspiration and strength comes from my brother, the chief."
It was clear that the chief draws as much inspiration from his relatives. They include Burton Johnson, the city's first black fire chief, and Cecil Turner, a former professional football player with the Chicago Bears, both of whom attended last night's fete.
Maurice Turner, police chief for the past six years, proudly pointed out some members of his family at one of 15 tables they planned to fill. "I just feel wonderful," he said.
City Administrator Thomas M. Downs said that in his 23 years of government service, Turner "is the best police chief I've ever worked with." And noting that Turner, 51, is "fighting trim," he speculated that the chief was not, even after 30 years, itching to stop.
"I'll continue as long as you're mayor . . . as long as you want me to," Barry recalled Turner telling him in a conversation during last year's election campaign.
The mayor told the guests after dinner that he has no plans to step down before 2002 and that he will keep Turner as his police chief because he would never want to run against him for mayor.
Extolling the successes of Turner's leadership of the police department's antidrug Operation Clean Sweep, and noting that crime in the city has declined significantly in the last four years, Barry said, "We have the greatest police chief in the region . . . the greatest police chief in the world."