Days after the Baltimore Police Department announced that he would oversee reforms in the beleaguered sex offense unit, a popular district commander has opted to retire.
Maj. Scott Bloodsworth had been in charge of the Southern District since 2008. His new appointment last week came amid questions about police handling of sex crimes and after city officials vowed to change the way the department investigates them. The new post included the citywide robbery, check and fraud, missing persons and child abuse units.
But Bloodsworth, a 24-year veteran, filed retirement papers Tuesday, his first day in the post, leaving the sex crimes unit without a permanent commander at a crucial time.
The Baltimore Sun reported last week that while the department has reported an 80 percent decrease in rapes, it leads the country in the percentage of rape allegations that are labeled as "unfounded" and dismissed by detectives; and four in 10 emergency calls do not get to detectives in the first place. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has ordered an audit of department statistics and investigative policies, and established a hot line for those who believe that their cases were brushed off.
Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman, said Bloodsworth expressed reservations about leaving his district. After discussing his concerns, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III offered Bloodsworth his old job back last week and asked that he take time to think about it. But Bloodsworth had made up his mind to spend more time with his family, Guglielmi said.
Bloodsworth, a Baltimore native, declined a telephone interview, releasing a statement through the department calling it a "high privilege and honor" to police the streets where he grew up. "As I reflect on my career and obligations as a father, I came to the realization that there could be no more opportune time to retire. Leaving the Southern District seemed a logical time to leave the Baltimore City Police Department."
Community members had his cell phone number and were not afraid to use it. With neighborhoods as diverse as Federal Hill and Cherry Hill within the Southern District's boundaries, Bloodsworth's job included dealing with business owners and some of the city's most affluent residents, as well as those grappling with persistent drug dealing and violence.
Guglielmi denied reports that Bloodsworth had been "forced out" of his Southern District post and a suggestion that politics were involved. With the sex offense unit under a microscope, Bealefeld wanted reforms to be overseen by someone he trusted, Guglielmi said.
"He's a proven leader, and that's why he was chosen," Guglielmi said. "He could restructure that unit and make sure it got the attention it deserved. This has been a problem with the agency for 10 years, and past administrations would audit it and let it go back to where it was. We needed someone to systematically change the way we do business."
Guglielmi said Bealefeld wants to fill the post swiftly so that the new commander can work in conjunction with a task force of community and law enforcement stakeholders that begins meeting today to review department policies. The special investigations section had been led on an acting basis by Lt. Thomas Uzarowski, who retired the week before The Sun's article was published. The sex offense unit's supervisor, Lt. Jon Foster, remains in that position.
The search for new commanders in the Southern District and special investigations comes amid a continued thinning of the department's top ranks, with posts combined or eliminated through attrition. The department had 58 commanders three years ago; today there are 47. Only six commanders hold the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel — the highest ranks beneath the department's two deputy commissioners — down from 12 in 2007.
Jack Baker, a longtime community activist who leads the Southern District Police Community Relations Council, said he spoke with Bloodsworth at length Friday.
"He just didn't want what they were offering downtown," Baker said. "The only regret he had was that he was really going to miss the cops and all the neighbors."
Some community members believe that Bloodsworth was forced out. They are circulating a letter demanding a meeting with Bealefeld and Rawlings-Blake over their concern that Bloodsworth was transferred "not because of his qualifications but rather his successful efforts to enforce laws that pertain to bars."
The letter expresses "full faith and confidence" in acting Maj. Margaret Barillaro. "However, we fear that she will be unable to respond to our concerns if her job security is tied to the will of individuals with political connections as opposed to performance," it concludes.
Community leaders and Internet reports said bar owners were upset about an April visit to the Cross Street area by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young as he got ready to introduce a bill increasing fines for so-called quality-of-life offenses. Those leaders and Internet reports alleged that Colleen Martin Lauer, a Locust Point resident and political fundraising consultant, helped make calls to City Hall, urging that Bloodsworth be ousted.
Asked about the accusation, Lauer was stumped. "Of course not," she said. "I wasn't making any calls. I don't even know that the bar owners are upset."
Brian McComas of the Federal Hill Hospitality Association denied the allegation as well. He had high praise for Bloodsworth and said they speak regularly after having worked to establish a new weekend deployment in the Cross Street area in which bar owners pay into a pool to have additional officers posted near popular nightspots.
He said none of the association's members had ever "contacted anybody in reference to Major Bloodsworth."
"I don't like the connotation that the hospitality industry is behind getting him thrown out when he was the one we worked with for the increased security plan for Federal Hill," said McComas, who runs Ryleigh's Oyster and Taverna Corvina. "It goes against all sense. In fact, I'm not really happy that he's leaving because we'll have to start over" with his replacement.