Police union endorses Bernstein in prosecutor's race

State senator objects to being linked to endorsement of Jessamy

September 01, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

The union representing Baltimore police officers has endorsed attorney Gregg Bernstein in his race against incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy for state's attorney, saying the labor organization believes he will work "to ensure no violent crime goes unpunished."

The endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents 5,000 active-duty and retired city officers, is not surprising given complaints from the rank and file that Jessamy frequently blames police for bringing weak cases that force prosecutors to drop charges or agree to what some consider lenient sentences.

The volatile campaign has turned into a referendum on public safety and who is better equipped to curtail violence. Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III thrust himself into the debate by briefly placing a sign supporting Bernstein in his front yard.

Meanwhile, a letter sent to local news media on the official letterhead of Baltimore's state Senate delegation has caused something of an endorsement controversy, inadvertently linking one politician to Jessamy.

"To address crime in Baltimore, we must leave politics outside the courthouse steps," the letter to The Baltimore Sun reads. "No single crime incident is exclusively the fault of one component. Judges, police and attorneys must work together to create safer neighborhoods."

The letter is signed by five of the six state Democratic senators who represent Baltimore. The only name missing from a list printed at the bottom of the letter is that of Sen. George W. Della Jr. of South Baltimore, who is locked in one of the city's few competitive Democratic primary races.

While Della's name does not appear on the list, his name does appear on the letterhead, prompting the Baltimore Afro American newspaper to run an article saying that Della supports Jessamy. Political blogger Adam Meister, referencing the Afro, wrote that Della "enthusiastically endorsed Patricia Jessamy."

The Baltimore Sun did not publish the letter.

The head of the city's Senate delegation, Nathaniel J. McFadden, sent an e-mail to the Afro requesting a correction, but Della said the damage has already been done. He said McFadden never talked to him and that McFadden's e-mail to the Afro, on which he was copied, was the first time that he realized that his name appeared on the endorsement letter.

Della declined to say whether he thought using the office letterhead to make a political endorsement was appropriate, but he called the letter "misleading on the surface. It certainly misled Mr. Adam Meister and others to come to a wrong conclusion."

McFadden could not be reached for comment; his office said he was out sick on Wednesday.

Jessamy's campaign spokeswoman, Marilyn Harris-Davis, declined to comment on the police union endorsement.

The labor organization's president, Robert F. Cherry, said a committee of elected union officials interviewed Jessamy and Bernstein before making their recommendation.

The Vanguard Justice Society, which represents minority police officers in the city, sponsored a debate between the two candidates. But its president, Lt. Ken Butler, said Wednesday that the group probably would not endorse a candidate.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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