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Bealefeld addresses concerns about Police Department in radio appearance

Commissioner answers questions from callers

By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

8:47 PM EDT, August 16, 2011

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Baltimore's police commissioner struck a defiant tone during a radio appearance Tuesday evening and defended his department amid a series of high-profile cases that have cast a pall on the integrity of the 3,100-member force.

Answering questions on the "Marc Steiner Show," Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III for the first time in recent weeks confronted some of his agency's recent scandals and tried to answer critics. He discussed several topics that he has refused to comment on in the past week.

He warned against drawing broad conclusions about misconduct cases that have implicated 50 officers in a kickback scandal with a towing company — leading to several guilty pleas — and a corruption case in which an officer is charged with running a large-scale heroin operation and dealing drugs in a stationhouse parking lot.

"To say a large body of the BPD is indictable because of the conduct of a few, I think is an over-generalization that is dangerous for people to adopt," Bealefeld said during his hourlong interview on WEAA, a public radio station affiliated with Morgan State University.

The commissioner took exception to Steiner's questions on why officers fired 42 shots outside the Select Lounge nightclub in January when four officers mistakenly killed their plainclothes colleague, Officer William H. Torbit Jr., as he shot and killed an attacker during a fight.

City police last week released an 1,100-page report and a video of the shooting, and an independent commission is reviewing the department's procedures. Bealefeld called it "absolute foolishness" to question the number of shots fired and to assume what went through the minds of the officers involved.

"To promote themselves as some kind of purported experts about the difference between one shot and 10 shots, is just flat out wrong," he said. "What happened on the parking lot outside that club is a horrible, horrible tragedy. What happened on that lot was an absolute tragedy for this whole city. What more could I say, the mayor say, could anyone say?"

But, Bealefeld said, "do we want to know how to do it better … how to better train our officers? The answer is yes and yes."

On a separate topic, Bealefeld said he had to be careful about what he said concerning the case of Officer Daniel G. Redd, who was indicted on federal charges of dealing heroin.

After his arrest, the commander of internal investigations, Maj. Nathan Warfield, who had a social relationship with Redd and appeared in a photo with him — and separately with another man charged in another drug case — was transferred from that command.

At the time, police commanders declined to comment on the reasons for the move. Steiner implored Bealefeld to address whether the move was because of Redd's arrest and the connection between the two men and whether the internal affairs department was compromised during the investigation.

"I wasn't in the dark about what was going on there," Bealefeld answered, making his first public comments on Redd's arrest.

"At the end of the thing, we moved him out," Bealefeld said of Warfield. "People want to know every intimate detail, every single thing. But they have to at least acknowledge that we're committed to doing something and taking action.

"One man is in federal custody facing substantial criminal charges," the commissioner continued, stressing that the investigation began with his detectives and that he brought in the FBI. "I'd like to say more. Maybe someday more can be said."

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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