By now, you know that Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III announced his resignation, effective Aug. 1, on Thursday. Read the full story here, along with a video clip and a photo gallery of the chief through the years.
Here's what some in the community are saying about the commissioner:
“Commissioner Bealefeld has been a great public servant for the people of Baltimore throughout his entire career in the Baltimore Police Department and we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “While I am saddened to announce his retirement, I respect his decision to retire after decades of service to spend more time with his family. I know he loves the job and was proud to serve with honesty and integrity for these many years.”
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he was “flabbergasted” to learn of Bealefeld’s retirement.
"I’m just shocked that he’s leaving,” Young said in an interview. ”I talked to him about it a month ago and he said he wasn’t going anywhere. And then today the mayor calls and says he’s going to retire.”
Young said he developed a deep respect with Bealefeld after having gotten off to a rocky start with him. In 2007, Bealefeld had ordered Young, then an East Baltimore councilman, to escorted out of a Comstat meeting after he questioned the validity of police statistics.
“I think he has done a good job leading the police department. Murders were down. Overall crime was down,” said Young. “I was impressed with his interactions with communities. I went on some of those community-led cop walks. He was very down to earth.”
Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein said Bealefeld will go down as “one of the best police commissioners” the city has ever had.
“He’s been a tremendous public servant and he is a person who really lived and breathed Baltimore, and he gave it his all. He worked that job 24/7, and he was fully committed to trying to make Baltimore a safer place,” Bernstein said.
“I think through sheer dint of will and effort, he greatly improved the effectiveness of the Baltimore Police Department, and I think that the statistics bear that out in terms of the drop in crime, and I think he deserves a large amount of the credit for that,” Bernstein continued. “I think that the citizens of Baltimore owe him a great debt of gratitude and respect.”
Bealefeld famously butted heads with Bernstein’s predecessor, Patricia Jessamy, which added to tension between city police and prosecutors, the commissioner said in a December interview. Jessamy could not be reached for comment Thursday.
When Bernstein ran for office in 2010, Bealefeld endorsed him, and once he took over as state’s attorney last year, they made a point of presenting a united front to the public, trying to avoid airing their issues in the media.
“On a personal level, and please, this is not an indictment on his predecessor, my personal communication ability with him on critical issues is much easier and much more open, mostly because he doesn’t feel like I’m blaming him, and I don’t feel like he’s blaming me,” Bealefeld said in the earlier interview. “I can tell you that there have been a number of issues, a number of serious issues that would have in the past led to stories in your newspaper, but that you guys have not heard a single word about, because we have done what the public expects of us, and tried to work out the solution instead of embarrassing each other.”
Earlier this year, Bernstein and Bealefeld launched a community prosecution model that put prosecutors in charge of specific geographic zones and connected them to police working there in the hopes that the two agencies would become more closely aligned and better serve various regions.
“I think ultimately what will be [Bealefeld’s] legacy, is that he helped get that started, and we’ll just move on from there,” Bernstein said.
“What we both say is, at the end of the day, what matters is the relationships between my deputies, my assistant state’s attorneys and the majors and deputy majors and the command staff and the officers, because that’s really where the rubber hits the road. I mean, he and I can talk the talk, but unless the troops, so to speak, on both sides of the street are working together, the things that we talk about are not going to be effective, and they’re simply not going to happy. On that score, we’re seeing tremendous progress, and I think that the level of cooperation that now exists between the state’s attorney’s office and the Baltimore Police Department is really palatable and you see it.”
Bernstein declined to outline what he would hope for in a successor, saying that was up to the mayor. “I’m sure that the mayor will be very thoughtful in her decision making and she’ll consult with her advisors. To the extent that she wants my advice, I’m happy to talk to her about it, but again, it’s ultimately her decision, and I’ll respect her decision and I’ll work with whomever she selects.”
Gary McLhinney, former city police union president and chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. He served with Bealefeld in a drug squad.
“He survived longer than most police commissioners in big cities, and when I use the word survived, I mean survived, because that’s what you do as police commissioner. You survive. He stayed on for the reason most police commissioers are kept, crime is going down.”
On the problems in the deparment: “Those things, they happen. We’re a police department that because of its pay and benefit package cannot attract the most qualified people for the job. The majority of officers go out there and do a great job in the city and have a high ethical standard. But when you have 3,000 people you’re going to have some folks making problems. The challenge for the police commissioner is, ‘Do you sweep it unrder the rug and don’t get blamed for it? Or do you shine a light on it and take criticism for it. He did the latter, probably more than previous commissioners.”
“It’s not an easy. Job, mentally, physically. Baltimore City has some very strong critics of the police department, who have critical of every police commissioner in the past two decades. You will never satisfy them.”
House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, who represents East Baltimore, said Bealefeld did a great job in bringing crime down in the city. Branch said he was especially appreciative of the quality of the majors Bealefeld appointed in the precincts in his district.
The veteran delegate said he expects the city to launch a national search for a successor, adding that the department could use “some new people and some new ideas.”
Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell of West Baltimore said she too would like to see the department consider candidates from other cities. “It is an opportunity to look outside of Baltimor,” she said. “But the candidate has to be [one] with a strong track record with the urban setting.”
Jones said she had found Bealefeld responsive and respectful but that their dealings had been limited. “As delegation chair, I’m not sure that was the best ting in the world,” she said. “In my district, youd get mixed reviews because you have a very diverse population. . . . Things can be improved in all areas and the police department is not one where everything is shiny.”
Sen. Bill Ferguson, who represents South and Southeast Baltimore in Annapolis, said he is surprised and disappointed to see Bealefeld go and hopes the commissioner will have a voice in the mayor’s choice of a successor.
“He’s done an amazing work in really improving the efficiency of the police force,” Ferguson said, pointing to a decline in arrest rates at the same time homicide numbers have been reduced.
“His policy of going after habitual violent gun offenders is something that everyone in the city can agree is an absolute priority for us to get under control,” Ferguson said.
Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who represents a West Baltimore District, said Bealefeld would be missed. “He was one I’ve always had a good relationship with, even when he was a major and I was on the City Council,” Mitchell said. “He was one of those rare commissioners that wasn’t political.”
Mitchell said that was one reason for the commissioner’s long tenure in that office.
“He was a straight shooter,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes he ruffled feathers by calling perpetrators ‘knuckleheads’ or something like that, but he was speaking from the heart.”
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