BALTIMORE MAYOR Martin O'Malley has quietly replaced his criminal justice coordinator and is reorganizing the 10-member staff. In the future, the Police Department will supervise all public safety initiatives.
Peter Saar, who headed the Office of Criminal Justice for two years, lost his job after federal auditors strongly criticized grant administration. The stolid former prosecutor was reassigned to the city solicitor's office.
Mr. Saar apparently was also hit by flak from last summer's tug-of-war among Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Mayor O'Malley and Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris over the politically sensitive HotSpots program.
Commissioner Norris will have controlling influence over the reorganized Office of Criminal Justice, which will be headed by Christine Mahoney, a civilian who has been the Police Department's director of grants. The office will also move to police headquarters.
Mayor O'Malley wants the office to do more hard-hitting analysis. That way the agency could play a role in the administration's attempt next year to unseat State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.
The office is also likely to become a more assertive voice on the Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which has for nearly three years sought improvements in courts and jails.
Despite some reforms, the labyrinthine criminal justice process is still badly bogged down. Aggressive leadership and new ideas are lacking. That's why a more forceful Office of Criminal Justice would be a good thing.
The Office of Criminal Justice started as an activist agency, created by Mayor William Donald Schaefer in the 1970s to deal with such issues as scandalous jail overcrowding.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke turned it chiefly into a grant and program administrator.
In the future, those programs are likely to dovetail more closely with the O'Malley administration's crime-fighting priorities. This is fine.
However, as long as the office runs programs that depend on interjurisdictional cooperation, things should not get too political or personalized. This is a particularly relevant danger because of the great distrust between Lieutenant Governor Townsend and Mayor O'Malley. The same goes for City Hall's rocky relations with Ms. Jessamy.
All these elected officials should realize that not everything in life is politics. To establish and pursue effective crime-fighting strategies, these leaders need to embrace the idea of cooperation.