Former city cadet completes climb to top position

From police cadet to commissionerSUN PROFILE

October 05, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

Back in the early 1980s, back when they were young officers in the Western District's drug unit, Dorsey McVicker knew his partner, Fred Bealefeld, was going somewhere.

"At lunch, I would read the sports section," McVicker said. "Freddy would read the police general orders."

Yesterday, Mayor Sheila Dixon chose Bealefeld as Baltimore's police commissioner after watching him serve in the interim position for 2 1/2 months.

Dixon said Bealefeld shares her "passion and drive for the success of this city," and after years of public service, both find themselves in a position to lead Baltimore.

"I don't think he ever dreamed to be the commissioner of the Police Department," she said, announcing her decision. "And I never dreamed that I'd be the mayor of Baltimore City."

Frederick H. Bealefeld III became a city police cadet after graduating from high school in Anne Arundel County. More than 25 years later, he has never worked for any other agency. He has held every rank in the department -- as he said yesterday, "No one waved a wand and said you go from lieutenant to king."

"You're not talking about someone who's got to get to know anybody," he said at a news conference. "I don't have to get to know anyone. I know who they are. I know what their strengths are, I know what their weaknesses are."

That lifetime of Baltimore experience is what might have given Bealefeld the edge over the other candidate Dixon had been considering, former Washington police chief Charles H. Ramsey. And it's what appears to give Bealefeld credibility with his 3,000 officers.

Robert F. Cherry Jr., a homicide detective and police union vice president, called Bealefeld "probably the hardest-working cop in the department." McVicker, Bealefeld's former partner, said that "probably 90 percent of the officers in the department like him, and the other 10 percent don't know him because they're new."

Bealefeld can name officers in every nook of the department. He can name many of the city's most dangerous residents. In his back pocket, he keeps a notebook of crimes he wants to remember.

He frequently drives around the city, responding to crimes and visiting neighborhoods. Yesterday, hours after being named commissioner, he kept a commitment to visit a community block party in West Baltimore.

"I hope that you're seeing more police officers in the neighborhood," he told the sparse, late-afternoon crowd at the party. "We're going to be working together. You're going to see a lot of us. You're going to see a lot of me."

One resident, Tony T. Herring, 30, said of the commissioner, "For him to even come out here says something."

Bealefeld's style and qualifications mark a shift from the past few police commissioners. Leonard D. Hamm, who resigned at Dixon's request in July after a spike of killings, was seen by some as too passive. In contrast, the previous two leaders, Kevin P. Clark and Edward T. Norris, were seen as hands-on and actively engaged in police work. But both had come from New York and were dogged by complaints of not having been raised in Baltimore's department.

There's no mistaking that Bealefeld, 45, is homegrown. He uses urban-flavored phrases such as "I've been around here a minute" and knows this is "Bawlmer."

Police blue blood runs through his family, dating to his great-grandfather. Yesterday, he wore a watch passed down from his grandfather, who for 25 years walked a beat around Greenmount and North avenues.

His younger brother, Charles Bealefeld, is a city homicide detective. A great-uncle was killed in the line of duty.

Raised in Anne Arundel County, Bealefeld graduated in 1980 from Chesapeake High School in Pasadena. He had a year of community college in that county and a year in Baltimore.

It's an unusual background for the leader of a major police department. In recent years, said Doug Ward, director of the Johns Hopkins Police Executive Leadership Program, departments have emphasized a need for higher education both in entry- and command-level positions.

Ward noted a 1998 study by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, which surveyed departments in 358 cities and counties of 50,000 or more residents. It showed that 87 percent of the chiefs had bachelor's degrees and nearly half had earned master's degrees.

Bealefeld's five-page resume covers his education in three lines. The rest details a career in which he rose through the ranks of Baltimore's Police Department.

McVicker, 54, said he and Bealefeld became friends as new officers in the Western District. He described the young Bealefeld as "very much a street cop, a go-getter." The partners looked up to people such as their sergeant, Robert Stanton, now retired, who went on to become chief of the criminal investigations division.

"He was a fearless but stable type of guy, a family man, like us," McVicker said.

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