Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III sought last night to tamp down rumors about the departure of popular Southern District commander Scott Bloodsworth, while assuring that acting major has his confidence and is "in the pilot's seat" to remain there.
The meeting was called last week as rumors swirled that Bloodsworth had been forced out as part of some political scheming fueled by bar owners and a prominent fundraiser who lives in the district. Bealefeld addressed it head on, saying his first communication with the mayor on the topic was after Bloodsworth had decided to leave, and he said that to this day he had not been contacted by two city councilmembers who represent the area.
He said that if bar owners are upset, he was "ignorant" to it. And a Locust Point resident's concerns about crime were noted but hardly the kind of thing to set off political domino effect, he said.
Instead, Bealefeld emphasized how disappointed he was that Bloodsworth opted to leave rather than oversee reforms in the beleaguered sex offense unit, which the commissioner said was in "crisis" and is at that top of his priority list.
"I lost my ace pitcher - and I didn't get another body. He's just off the team. How did that happen?"
He spoke at length about the deliberations that went into deciding to move Bloodsworth, and his attempt to offer the commander his position back once he opted to retire. He said Bloodsworth's ultimate decision is "his personal business."
Despite Bealefeld's appeal, it seemed as though few were convinced. Most of the questions after he was done centered on how few could believe that the commander they admired and worked with so well would decide to leave. Bealefeld said Bloodsworth, initially accepting the position, said "I'm a soldier."
Asked Paul Robinson, of the Federal Hill Improvement Association: "I find it odd that this 'soldier' would waver" unless politics were somehow at play, he said. Betty Bland-Thomas, of the Sharp Leadenhall Community, said "I have to wonder, how did it go from 'Yes' to 'I'm going to retire?'"
Chris Taylor, of the Union Square Association and who missed the majority of Bealefeld's presentation, said he would take Bealefeld at his word but nonetheless still believed the move was political. And Bill Lehman, a Brooklyn resident, got into a brief back-and-forth with Council Edward Reisinger after the meeting had concluded, his voice booming that "one person" had "created this mess," an apparent allusion to the Locust Point fundraiser. Reisinger retorted that no one had any evidence and that people were irresponsibly spreading rumors on the Internet.
Everyone who spoke up expressed confidence in Acting Maj. Margaret Barillaro, who longtime community activist Jack Baker said "doesn't take any crap from anyone." They only asked Bealefeld for one thing: that he not continue to shake up the district leadership. With three commissioners and five Southern District commanders in the past eight years, that is easier said than done.