Anthony E. Barksdale, who ran the operations of the Baltimore Police Department for five years during some of the city's most significant declines in crime, has retired.
A city native, Barksdale became the youngest deputy commissioner in the agency's history in 2007 at age 35 when Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III named him to the post.
With Barksdale running operations, the Bealefeld regime was able to curb a march toward 300 homicides that year, and in 2008 the city saw one of the largest year-over-year drops ever, from 282 killings to 234, as part of a focused strategy that involved fewer arrests.
Three years later, the city recorded fewer than 200 killings for its lowest homicide rate since 1988.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young called Barksdale the "architect" of the crime strategy that led to the declines. "He was really the driving force," Young said. "I can't see how we let him get away."
When Bealefeld retired in 2012, Barksdale became acting commissioner and was considered by some to be a front-runner for the post.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instead chose California law enforcement veteran Anthony W. Batts, and Barksdale, who has suffered from heart problems, went on medical leave days before Batts arrived. Barksdale remained on medical leave until his retirement, ending a 20-year career with the force.
Barksdale, now 42, declined to comment.
"Deputy Barksdale was the quiet leader behind the scenes, away from the cameras and receiving little credit, who helped shape the violent crime units that over the years were instrumental in reducing crime in Baltimore," said Robert F. Cherry, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police lodge.
"He wasn't afraid to go to bat for a cop who had proved to be a worker on the street. And part of that is because Tony himself was a worker — just ask anyone who broke the law in the Southern District where he worked as a rookie police officer and earned the nickname 'Hurricane.'"
Throughout his tenure, Barksdale rarely spoke publicly. In an interview in 2008 along with other commanders, he said his philosophy was to have his officers from the Violent Crimes Impact Section — since renamed and reduced in size — focus on historically violent areas.
"It's a basic principle: cops at the right areas, at the right times," he said. Previous efforts had been "fractured," he said, with units sometimes working within blocks of each other but unaware of each other.
During that time, the department publicly distanced itself from zero-tolerance policies and focused on guns rather than drugs, which coincided with steep drops in gun violence.
Batts now has two people doing Barksdale's job after creating a third deputy commissioner position. In addition to a deputy commissioner for "professional standards," he has a deputy overseeing neighborhood patrol and another overseeing investigations and intelligence.
"We thank Deputy Commissioner Barksdale for his dedicated service to the department and wish him the very best in his future endeavors," said Lt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman.