A high-ranking Baltimore police commander who oversees homicide and other criminal investigations and helped lead the department’s 2015 probe into the death of Freddie Gray has taken a leave of absence to run for Baltimore sheriff.
Chief Stanley Brandford plans to challenge Sheriff John Anderson in the Democratic primary in June, he said, because he believes the sheriff’s office has been underused as a partner agency for police amid a wave of violent crime and could “help bring some calm and some stability to some of our neighborhoods” under his leadership.
Anderson, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on Brandford’s claims and candidacy.
Sheriff’s deputies in Baltimore enforce criminal and civil law, and provide law enforcement for the court system. They transport and maintain custody of detainees and prisoners, including within the city’s courthouses. They also enforce domestic violence and peace orders, participate in the execution of warrants, and maintain criminal patrol and crime suppression details.
A top Baltimore sheriff's office commander who obtained the warrants for the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray says in an affidavit that he "had no involvement in the investigation whatsoever."
Brandford heads the police department’s criminal investigations division, which includes the homicide and citywide shootings units, the robbery unit, the sex crimes section and the drug intelligence unit.
He has spoken publicly about high-profile crimes, including homicides. In 2015, he helped lead the department’s investigation into the arrest of the 25-year-old Gray, whose death from injuries suffered in police custody led to widespread protests of police brutality and whose funeral was followed by rioting in the city.
Since then, the pace of violent crime in Baltimore has been at record or near-record levels. Homicides reached a per-capita high in 2015, with 344 killings in the city. That was followed by 318 homicides in 2016, which was the second most on a per-capita basis until this year, which has eclipsed 2016 with 331 homicides as of Monday.
Brandford said he does not intend to turn the sheriff’s office into a “heavy-handed police agency” that tries to muscle into work traditionally done by the police department. But, he said, there is room for more collaboration between the two agencies.
Brandford said sheriff’s deputies could be better used to maintain order in troubled neighborhoods and in the downtown area, interact with at-risk young people, and provide traffic details that would free up more police officers to do proactive policing.
The current sheriff’s office does some of that work, but he said it is “few and far between” and sheriff’s deputies are “not visible, not involved” as they should be.
“I want to extend the footprint of the sheriff's office outside of the courthouse,” he said.
He said his vision for fighting crime in the city is in line with that of Mayor Catherine Pugh, in the sense that he agrees that all the city’s agencies must be directly involved in combating violence.
Brandford has lived in Baltimore his entire life, growing up in the Pigtown area before joining the U.S. Marine Corps. He served as a Marine from 1979 to 1988, when he was honorably discharged as a sergeant, he said.
He has lived in Hamilton for 23 years. He is married with five children.
Brandford took a paid leave of absence beginning Dec. 6, he said. He is using accumulated leave and vacation time built up over his 28 years with the police department, he said.