Panel of experts to aid search for Baltimore's top cop

Baltimore officials said Wednesday that they plan to bring together a panel of experts and hire an outside firm in their search for the city's next police commissioner, even as two potential candidates got an audition of sorts before the City Council.

Spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said a panel of law enforcement and legal experts will work with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's deputy chief of public safety and operations, Yolanda Jiggetts, to find a replacement for Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III. He announced his retirement last week, effective Aug. 1.

An outside search firm is likely to be brought in, though specifics were still being worked out as officials seek to fill other key vacancies at City Hall.

O'Doherty reiterated Rawlings-Blake's desire to conduct a "rigorous, national search process" and said local applicants will be considered. "We want to make sure we have a nice pool," he said.

The top in-house candidates are considered to be the two deputy commissioners — Anthony E. Barksdale, who has overseen police operations since Bealefeld's appointment in 2007, and John P. Skinner, the former chief of patrol who was elevated last year to direct administrative issues.

Barksdale and Skinner represented the Police Department at Wednesday's City Council budget hearing, after Bealefeld was asked not to attend by the mayor's staff, according to sources. Skinner led the presentation, with Barksdale answering some of the questions from council members.

"It's a team effort, and we're achieving these accomplishments through teamwork," Skinner told council members of the city's decline in crime.

Barksdale, 40, was the youngest deputy commissioner in department history and has played an integral role in the various incarnations of its violent crime units. A member of former Commissioner Edward T. Norris' executive detail, he has maintained a low profile despite his high-ranking position and would be thrust into the spotlight as commissioner.

Skinner, 41, also had a quick rise through the ranks — he was promoted to chief of patrol in 2007 as a 14-year veteran. He has overseen the intelligence and patrol divisions and was commander of the downtown Central District.

A handful of other agency veterans, including Col. Jesse Oden, the chief of criminal investigations, might also receive consideration.

"Deputy Commissioner Barksdale has been the person developing and overseeing the strategies that led us to historic crime lows, so he is a candidate for the job," said Councilman Brandon M. Scott, who represents Northeast Baltimore and is vice chairman of the Public Safety Committee. "Deputy Commissioner Skinner ... also has a superb background with the experience to lead the agency, along with Col. Jesse Oden."

With a national search, Baltimore officials could tap a rising star from another city. Of the past seven commissioners, three were from outside the department and only two rose through the ranks to the top spot, as Bealefeld did.

Leonard D. Hamm had spent 22 years with the agency but was forced out in 1996 and had worked for the Downtown Partnership, city schools police and Morgan State University police before returning as a deputy commissioner just before his appointment in 2004.

Ronald L. Daniel also spent his career with the agency but served in a grant-writing office for two years before being selected by then-Mayor Martin O'Malley for the post. Daniel lasted less than two months in the position.

Thomas C. Frazier, the longest-serving commissioner in recent history, came from San Jose, Calif., while Norris and Kevin P. Clark were from New York City.

Then-Mayor Sheila Dixon offered former Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey the commissioner's post in 2007. He had signed a contract before Dixon changed her mind, rescinded the offer and gave Bealefeld the job. Ramsey became Philadelphia police commissioner.

Race has occasionally been a flash point in the selection process; four of the most recent commissioners were black and three have been white.

Bealefeld will work with the panel of law enforcement and legal professionals assisting in the search for the next commissioner, O'Doherty said. Bealefeld said he was unsure to what extent he would be involved.

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