The Baltimore Police Department's director of public affairs -- the public face of the agency -- has been fired, the first significant personnel change made after last week's ouster of Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm.
Matt Jablow, a former local television reporter who has held the top spokesman's post for about four years, was replaced by Sterling Clifford, a top aide at City Hall and former spokesman for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.
Police officials declined to comment yesterday. In an interview, Clifford confirmed that he was replacing Jablow. He said the police commissioner has "the final say" on personnel decisions, though he added that Mayor Sheila Dixon and the commissioner will be "working closely" on more personnel changes at the department.
Clifford declined to comment on Jablow's firing. Jablow was considered a member of the command staff and was one of the closest advisers to Hamm and Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who was named interim commissioner Thursday.
Dixon, speaking at the Artscape festival yesterday, said the mayor's office was not involved in the decision to fire Jablow, but she would not comment directly on why he was let go.
"It's a personnel issue," Dixon said. "It's a personnel issue, and we're moving forward and we're trying to put things in place to keep things moving, to have accessibility."
Jablow joined the department in August 2003 after working as a television news reporter for WBAL-TV in Baltimore. He also worked as a television reporter and anchorman in Denver, Houston and Long Island, N.Y.
Sources familiar with the decision said Bealefeld fired Jablow on Friday.
Yesterday, Jablow declined to comment on the circumstances of his firing. He said of his tenure in the job: "It was truly an honor to have worked with the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department for the past four years."
The firing of Jablow is the first changeover of a significant position at the department since Dixon asked Hamm to resign Tuesday night, pointing to what she characterized as lackluster performance amid a rising homicide count.
Bealefeld, the former deputy commissioner, is serving as interim chief as Dixon begins a national search for a new leader for a department struggling to boost the morale of its 3,000 officers and to lower crime statistics that rival the murderous 1990s, when homicides topped 300 a year.
At a news conference Thursday, Dixon said she will allow the "experts" in the department to lead the city's crime fight. Bealefeld has said that he expects the mayor to allow him to run the department as acting commissioner.
Clifford struck a more nuanced tone yesterday.
"The mayor has made a commitment to let the police commissioner run the department, but obviously she has a vested interest in what goes on there," Clifford said.
Bealefeld has expressed interest in winning the top job. He has broad popularity within the department and is seen as a street officer who worked his way up through the ranks during his uninterrupted 26-year career with the agency. His younger brother is a homicide detective, and he has had other relatives who have served in the department.
Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.