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Crime & Justiceby Fern Shen6:04 pmMay 3, 20120

With Bealefeld retiring, Rawlings-Blake team loses key player

Above: Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III at event yesterday on Harford Road, a day before announcing his retirement.

The exodus from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s cabinet continued today with the announced retirement plans of one of its highest profile and paid members – Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III. (UPDATE: Also announcing her departure today via email was Sheryl Goldstein, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.)

Bealefeld, 49, a 30-year veteran of the department who earned $193,800 in 2010, is leaving after nearly five years as commissioner, which makes him “one of the longest-serving police commissioners in recent history,” as city officials said in an emailed statement today.

(Five years may not sound like much but in Baltimore, that kind of time-served is notable for the police department. Consider Ronald L. Daniel, appointed by Mayor Martin O’Malley, who had a tenure of 51 days.)

Bealefeld, 49, whose retirement becomes effective on August 1, offered no specific reason for his decision to leave the force now.

“This was a very tough decision for me and for my family, but it’s now the right time for me to bring my career with the Baltimore Police Department to a close,” he said in the email.

In the same media release, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that while she is “saddened to announce his retirement,” she respects “his decision to retire after decades of service to spend more time with his family.”

“I know he loves the job and was proud to serve with honesty and integrity for these many years,” the mayor added. “He has been an extremely effective leader that we will miss.”

Rawlings-Blake has staked the success of her two-year-old administration on the lower murder count achieved under Bealefeld’s leadership – and she has given the chief nearly all of the funds he has sought in a period of otherwise deep budget cuts.

She has also consistently backed the police over allegations of unnecessary force by some officers (here and here), which has resulted in the payout of millions of dollars to settle civilian lawsuits.

Police misconduct charges have created a steady stream of bad headlines – officers pleaded guilty to a towing kickback scandal, for instance, and the officer found guilty of fatally shooting a man during a confrontation outside a Mount Vernon nightclub. The accidental fatal shooting of an officer last year by other officers, in a chaotic confrontation outside the Select Lounge, prompted a highly critical report by an independent review panel.

In her latest budget report, the mayor highlighted the fact that 68% of Baltimore citizens are expected to feel “satisfied or very satisfied with police approachability.”

UPDATE: The email announcing Goldstein’s departure began circulating hours after news broke about Bealfeld’s plan to retire. Goldstein, whose last day will be June 15, wrote that it was “time to move on to something new.”

Hired by Rawlings-Blake’s predecessor Sheila Dixon, Goldstein is the wife of City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.

Sound of Exiting Wingtips and High Heels

Missing members of her cabinet has become a refrain in Rawlings-Blake’s administration, as the list of high-level retirements and resignations grows longer.

Just last month Thomasina (Tomi) Hiers announced she would be leaving her post as acting chief of staff after three weeks on the job. It’s a position Hiers took over on April 6, following the announcement in March that Peter O’Malley would be leaving the job after nine months.

O’Malley took the job after the surprise departure of his predecessor, Sophie Dagenais, original chief of staff who began as part of the incoming Rawlings-Blake administration.

In addition to Bealefeld, Hiers, O’Malley and Dagenais, the mayor has lost or is losing:

• M.J. “Jay” Brodie, long-serving president of the Baltimore Development Corp.
• Rico J. Singleton, Chief Information Officer and director of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, caught in a scandal at his prior job for New York State.
• Christopher G. Thomaskutty, deputy mayor of Public Safety and Operations,
• Gregory Bayor, director of Recreation and Parks

Decrying “Bad Guys With Guns” – and David Simon

Bealefeld , a Sheila Dixon appointee, made targeting gun-related criminals – “bad guys with guns” – a hallmark of his command.

It was marked departure from the controversial “zero tolerance” policy of his predecessors, an approach advocates said would control quality-of-life issues and critics said would be a waste of resources.

Getting the murder count below 200 for the first time in decades during his tenure was a major accomplishment that Bealefeld mentioned frequently, as did Rawlings-Blake during the run-up to her election last year.

Bealefeld had a loyal following in the law enforcement community and could be an impassioned speaker, whether he was addressing a vigil for a shooting victim or railing against one of his favorite objects of scorn, the HBO series set in Baltimore, “The Wire.”

Commissioner Bealefeld addressing July 28 vigil for Stephen Pitcairn, who was stabbed to death walking home on St. Paul St. (Photo by Fern Shen).

Commissioner Bealefeld addressing July 28, 2010 vigil for Stephen Pitcairn, who was stabbed to death walking home on St. Paul Street. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Just last week, in an appearance at Govans Presbyterian Church, he went off on the subject again, complaining that the show, co-created by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, unfairly portrayed the city as “doomed” and dangerous.

Whenever he was traveling abroad, he complained, the only thing people would ask him about would be the city’s homicides – and “that stupid show.” Apparently, he won’t be watching the series in his leisure time.

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