The Baltimore Police Department's acting commissioner and the former chief of Washington's Metropolitan Police Department have emerged as front-runners being considered by Mayor Sheila Dixon for the city's top law enforcement position, according to several sources familiar with the process.
Acting Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, a 26-year veteran with broad support from within the department's ranks, faces competition for the job from Charles H. Ramsey, who stepped down in December as Washington's police chief, sources said yesterday.
Ramsey could not be reached for comment yesterday. A Baltimore police spokesman declined to comment for Bealefeld, but the interim commissioner has previously said he is interested in the job.
Bealefeld took over the department in mid-July, after Dixon asked Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm to resign amid a serious spike in killings that has put the city on track for 300 homicides for the first time since 1999.
According to several sources familiar with the process, applicants for the top job included candidates from New York, but the field has been narrowed over the past week to Bealefeld and Ramsey - both veteran law enforcement officers.
Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Dixon, declined to comment on the specific candidates for commissioner. He said the mayor, who promised a nationwide search after she ousted Hamm, has relied on a screening committee to interview applicants.
A timetable has not been set for making a decision, he said, though it seems likely that a permanent appointment would not be made until after the Sept. 11 Democratic primary.
"Mayor Dixon promised that she would reach out across the country and work really hard to make sure that the next police commissioner is the kind of leader that she needs to help her with the challenges facing the city," McCarthy said.
"She is focused on going after violent offenders, community engagement, and building on the strong partnerships she has" with law enforcement agencies, he said.
The city - and the Police Department's investigative resources - have been battered this year with the skyrocketing pace of homicides. As of last night, 205 people had been killed in the city - 27 more than during the same period last year, police statistics show.
Dixon has pushed the Police Department to try to improve relations with some of the city's most troubled neighborhoods while also tasking it with focusing on violent offenders and illegal handgun crimes.
More recently, police have pointed to at least one positive sign: The number of nonfatal shootings so far this month has declined by 42 percent - from 55 victims to 32 victims - from the same 27-day period last year, department figures show.
Bealefeld has steadily climbed the department's ranks and is seen as a hands-on, street-savvy veteran. He typically spends several hours a day driving on city streets, talking to officers on their beats and visiting crime scenes involving shooting and homicide investigations.
Beginning as a patrol officer, Bealefeld advanced to head the Southern District and then to a top-ranking command position overseeing patrol deployment for half of the city. Over the past two years, he has served as chief of detectives and, under Hamm this year, as deputy commissioner of operations.
As deputy commissioner, Bealefeld rolled out a foot patrol program that was initially met with resistance within the department, because homicide detectives were required to participate in the initiative. But they were later exempted from the requirement, and police officials say the program - with dozens of uniformed officers deployed on foot on most days of the week - is having a positive effect in some neighborhoods.
Paul M. Blair Jr., president of the city police union, said he believes his members would support Bealefeld "110 percent" over Ramsey.
He said that mid-level commanders and the rank-and-file officers are concerned that a new commissioner from outside the department would cause too much upheaval.
"He's worked his way up," Blair said of Bealefeld. "He also has a working knowledge of how the department is.
"You bring in an outsider, and all he can do is whack everybody in the top command and put his own people in."
Ramsey, who is well-known in national law enforcement circles as a leader, spent most of his career rising through the ranks of the Chicago Police Department. As a deputy superintendent, Ramsey was "instrumental in designing and implementing the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy," a nationally acclaimed model of community policing, according to his official biography on the Metropolitan Police Department's Web site.
Ramsey was appointed Washington's police chief in April 1998 and served until late last year, after being pushed out by the city's incoming mayor. He held a high-profile leadership position in the nation's capital and often had to balance local crime issues against concerns over terrorism.