Police commissioner says resigned for family

Appearing relaxed while trying to quell talk of a hidden motive behind his decision to resign in three months, the city's blunt-spoken police commissioner did at least concede Friday that he was pushed out of the job.

"Look, I was absolutely influenced in this decision," Frederick H. Bealefeld III said. But it wasn't by city officials or a as-yet-undisclosed issue. It was his wife, Linda, and 16-year-old daughter, Erica.

Said Bealefeld, his eyes tearing, "They're ready for me to come home."

The comments came during one of several interviews he gave to radio, television and print media a day after announcing his resignation, effective Aug 1.

In fine-tuning a plan to curtail violence, Bealefeld had worked closely with a deputy mayor who resigned in March, and with the mayor's political point person on crime strategy, Sheryl Goldstein, who announced her departure the same day he did.

That raised questions not only about a sudden brain drain in crime-fighting programs at City Hall, but about whether one departure influenced the others. Bealefeld directed those questions to Goldstein and the former deputy mayor.

City officials promised that a national search would be held for a new chief and that Bealefeld would remain on the job to help the transition.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, which studies law enforcement trends and helps cities find chiefs, said Bealefeld "will be very hard to replace."

He added, "Here's a guy who grew up in Baltimore, who's street-savvy. And then he became chief and, in his own folksy way, he understood and analyzed crime like few other chiefs I knew."

While reporters from across the city pressed for details on whether Bealefeld was leaving on his own accord, the commissioner — who has 31 years on the force, the past five as chief — carried himself as a man who had just cast off years of tumult and worry.

Usually reluctant to discuss his personal life, Bealefeld — who was born in Southwest Baltimore, with his mother's side of the family from Curtis Bay — opened up a bit, saying how the strains of his job had exhausted him and his family. He lamented how he "missed a big part" in the life of his son, Frederick H. Bealefeld IV, a Marine stationed in Pensacola, Fla.

His daughter will be heading off to college soon, he said, adding that he made up his mind to leave when he heard her say, "He just doesn't seem to be the same guy." Said Bealefeld, "That's something I have to pay attention to."

Bealefeld also rebutted talk that he has been offered jobs elsewhere, such as chief of security at the Johns Hopkins institutions — "not at all something I'm interested in," he said.

The commissioner talked about his move away from zero-tolerance policing to a more community-oriented approach. "I think we changed the culture of policing," Bealefeld said, pointing out that last year, the city recorded 196 homicides, ending under 200 for the first time in at least two decades.

Still, many residents perceive the city as unsafe, he said. "I think it's going to take a long time for this city to convince itself that the schools are improving, that public safety is improving."

Bealefeld said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the police scandals that at times undermined his message and his accomplishments in reducing crime. He said he could never understand being criticized for corrupt police officers he had targeted in the first place.

"I can tell you right now," he said to two reporters, "don't put your microphones or your pens down, because there will be more cases, and more cases soon about corrupt police officers."

A police spokesman later confirmed that Bealefeld had passed on to internal affairs investigators a file from the city's Inspector General's Office alleging wrongdoing by two officers. Documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun show the officers are accused of padding overtime, though the spokesman said the allegations appear false.

Bealefeld said allegations of misconduct over the years made his job more difficult but did not contribute to his decision to leave. And whatever comes next, "whether I sell widgets or I take walks in the woods and take photographs of flowers, I just want to be passionate about what I do."

Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker contributed to this article.


Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad