Citing his record on crime, council easy on Bealefeld

June 26, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN REPORTER

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III sailed through a City Council confirmation hearing yesterday evening, with council members praising his style and stressing the drop in crime since he took over the department in November.

The commissioner fielded easy questions from the members of the Executive Appointments Committee, all of whom praised Bealefeld's crime plan and his frequent stops in their neighborhoods.

"This was one of the first times I didn't see anyone speak in opposition," said Robert W. Curran, the chairman of the committee.

A vote by the full council is set for next month.

Since taking office, Bealefeld has made significant changes to the command staff and created a special operations force of about 240 officers who focus on violent sectors of the city. He has also patched up a historically rocky relationship with the state's attorney's office, and disagreements between those two agencies now rarely become public spats.

"You are not just getting Fred Bealefeld," Bealefeld told the committee. "You are getting Team Bealefeld."

The city's crime numbers have fallen precipitously since he took over. This year, there have been 103 homicides, compared with 151 at this time last year. Nonfatal shootings this year are down about 30 percent.

Bealefeld addressed the members briefly, stressing that his department seized about 3,000 guns since he took office and has made approximately 1,300 arrests. Mayor Sheila Dixon said last year that keeping guns off the streets was a top priority.

He also noted that the department has arrested 170 known gang members, which he said is consistent with the mayor's directive to lock up those who are likely to cause violence in the city.

Several community members spoke on behalf of the confirmation, including an activist from Cherry Hill. "I say to you without a shadow of a doubt that you will see the world's greatest police commissioner," said Cleoda Walker.

A chapter leader from the Guardian Angels also spoke in favor, saying that Bealefeld's support of his organization is a welcome change from previous administrations.

When the vote was called, Councilwoman Helen Holton said: "You give the appearance that the job is easy."

Councilman Warren Branch added: "You don't sit behind your desk."

Councilman Bill Henry said: "We all know you are great."

Bealefeld was tapped last July to replace Commissioner Leonard Hamm, who resigned amid an upswing in homicides and nonfatal shootings.

Bealefeld was confirmed in November to fill out the remainder of Commissioner Kevin P. Clark's six-year term.

That term ends June 30, so the council had to have yesterday's hearing before the full council could vote to confirm his nomination to the new term. That vote is set for July 21.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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