Bernard "Bernie" Harper, city police major

Bernard "Bernie" Harper, a retired decorated Baltimore Police Department major who had commanded the Northwestern District, died Saturday of cancer at his Northeast Baltimore home.

He was 73.

"I always considered Bernie as one of my outstanding commanders in the department. He was well-respected by all under his command and by community groups, who said many complimentary things about him," said Edward V. Woods, who served as Baltimore police commissioner from 1989 to 1993.

"It was Baltimore's loss when he retired, as well as the department's and the community's. He was just an outstanding all-around man," said Mr. Woods.

The son of a barber and confectioner's shop owner, Bernard Harper was born in Baltimore and raised near Paca and Pearl streets.

After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1957, he served in the Army for three years. When he left the service, he worked as a voucher examiner for the Veterans Administration until entering the Baltimore Police Academy in 1968.

He joined the police force, and while assigned to the Central District, he earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from what is now Baltimore City Community College.

"He and I went back to the days of the foot post, and he was a community-oriented police officer, that was Bernie," recalled Mr. Woods. "He'd reach out to the community and made personal contact with lots of people."

By 1972, he was working as a tactical patrolman out of the Southeastern District, and by the late 1970s was a plainclothes officer assigned to the Southwestern District.

As a detective, he was a member of a special tactical section known as the Stop Squad that helped reduce crime on Pennsylvania Avenue.

He steadily moved up the department's chain of command and in 1979 headed the Community Relations Council at the Northwestern District. While with the council, he helped set up one of the first citizens patrol groups in the city.

In 1984, he was promoted to captain and assigned to the criminal investigation division. A year later, then-Commissioner Bishop L. Robinson promoted him to major and named him commander of the Northeastern District and later the Northwestern District.

"He was very articulate and a hardworking guy. He was respected by his peer group," said Richard A. Hite Jr., who retired from the department after 31 years in 2009 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

"He was looked up to and was an outspoken leader in the community. He was easygoing but a stickler for details," said Colonel Hite. "One thing about Bernie: You always knew where you stood with him."

John A. Barnes was another longtime colleague.

"We kind of followed one another promotionwise," said Colonel Barnes, who retired in 1989.

"I first met Bernie in the late 1970s when we roamed the city in a drug enforcement unit," said Colonel Barnes. "He was the type of individual, if he could help you, he would. He'd take new officers in the unit under his wing and show them the ropes. He set the tone."

He added: "He was a good side partner. I'd trust my life with Bernie without a doubt."

Michael J. Andrew worked in drug enforcement for 22 years and retired last year as a lieutenant colonel after 38 years with the department.

"The cops that grew up during the 1960s and 1970s, like Bernie, were a different breed. He was a great guy, and I looked up to him," said Colonel Andrew.

Throughout his career, Major Harper's police work earned him numerous departmental commendations.

He was awarded the Silver Star for performance in the line of duty and the Bronze Star for his work in the Northwestern District.

He was named Police Officer of the Year by the Hunting Ridge Neighborhood Association and Police Officer of the Month by radio station WITH-AM.

Major Harper was awarded numerous certificates from various groups during his police career, which included a Mayor's Citation, City Council President's Certificate, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to the Korean Community.

He had been vice president and president of the Maryland Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officials and Executives, and a member of the Vanguard Justice Society and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He retired in 1995.

From 1986 to 1988, Major Harper was a member of the Rebound Advisory Board for the Charles H. Hickey School.

Major Harper was an avid history buff and enjoyed reading. He liked golfing with police colleagues at Forest Park Golf Course.

He liked cooking and entertaining family and friends. He was known for his preparation of Chinese food and for his barbecuing.

Major Harper was a longtime member of Govans Presbyterian Church.

Services are private.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Janey Peden; four sons, Bernard Harper Jr., Sean Harper and Brad Harper, all of Baltimore, and Kevin Harper of Charlotte, N.C.; a daughter, Patricia Harper of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.