Departure of mayor's top crime aide another key loss

With Baltimore starting the search for its next police commissioner, a key official in the city's crime fighting efforts also departed City Hall this week to lesser fanfare.

Sheryl Goldstein was rarely at the public forefront but almost always involved in the agency's biggest initiatives in her role as director of the Office on Criminal Justice. Perhaps more importantly, she was able to get those initiatives paid for amid tight budget times.

As a key advisor to former Sheila Dixon and an ally of Police CommissionerFrederick H. Bealefeld III, she may be as responsible for the city's shift away from so-called zero tolerance policies as anyone - resulting in a precipitous decline in arrests. At the time of her departure, she was overseeing $60 million in grant funds from outside entities to fund programs that the city couldn't afford.

"Sheryl Goldstein is the most effective person I have ever worked with in any setting," former Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty, who worked closely with Goldstein and whose departure set off a domino effect, said in an e-mail. "Her talents were most often displayed away from the public spotlight, but her policy making skills, work ethic, and tenacity have played an important role in making Baltimore a safer city."

Goldstein, the wife of State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein, served her last day in office on Wednesday and declined to be interviewed for this article.

But the long list of projects she was involved with underscore that the city is entering the summer months with a significantly different leadership team than the one that guided police efforts over the past five years, a time that saw murders drop 30 percent and non-fatal shootings decline by more than 40 percent.

Goldstein's office brought in about $20 million per year through grants. Goldstein played a key role in securing funds for the expansion of the city's network of surveillance cameras and deciding where to put them. She obtained a $1 million grant to expand a domestic violence program citywide, and got funds to start up the city's Gun Trace Task Force and gun registry with contractual employees, overtime and equipment. Grant money paid for reforms with of the sex offense unit and the hiring of a coordinator to work with police and women's groups.

When Bealefeld wanted to give every officer a Blackberry equipped with a program called PocketCop, allowing them to access key information from their phone and rely less on dashboard computers, Goldstein's office got the funds.

She also coordinated juvenile warrant service and helped get a curfew center up and running each year, and was involved from the early stages in the Department of Juvenile Services' Violent Prevention Initiative. New computers for homicide detectives are on the way thanks to - you guessed it - grant funds obtained through Goldstein's office.

Goldstein's background includes holding a similar position in Baltimore County, and before that she worked for a legal reform think tank in New York City and helped develop law programs in Kosovo. She took a leave of absence during her husband's campaign for state's attorney, but returned after his victory.

Critics occasionally raised concerns that Goldstein wielded too much power over the agency, but in truth, Bealefeld, Goldstein, and Thomaskutty worked closely as a team.

Thomaskutty left the mayor's office earlier this year, and Goldstein and Bealefeld later announced - on the same day - that they would be stepping down. Privately, city officials have cited tension among factions in MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration as an impetus for their departure as well as other high-profile losses such asPeter O'Malley, though none of them have publicly said as much.

Taking over Goldstein's position on an interim basis will be her deputy director, Leyla Layman, formerly the director of the Health Department's office of youth violence prevention. 

Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.

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