Schaefer's leadership in justice system missed, too

May 03, 2011

Like many others, I am proud to have been associated with William Donald Schaefer during his tenure as Baltimore's mayor and Maryland's governor. From 1974-79, I was director of the Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) during a time when the federal government was awarding cities significant financial support to improve law enforcement, the courts, corrections, juvenile justice, prosecutors and public defenders, and citizen-based community crime prevention efforts. In national competition, Baltimore was one of eight cities across the country to receive $20 million in High Impact Anti-Crime funds from the U.S. Justice Department to address crime and delinquency issues and improve the administration of justice.

The CJCC was comprised of strong-willed professionals who administered state and city agencies and the court system, each with a distinct mission to protect public safety and the rights of those appearing before them. Moreover, Mayor Schaefer appointed a citizens advisory committee to the CJCC, representing each council district in order to insure that ideas for fighting crime came from neighborhoods across the city.

Mayor Schaefer frequently chaired meetings of key decision-makers, demonstrating an uncanny ability to gain consensus. He was an advocate of citizen-based patrols in neighborhoods, job programs and vocational training for offenders, and drug treatment programs inside the city's jail. He supported crisis intervention services for crime victims, insisted that the business community, particularly small businesses, work with police to deter crime, supported professional training of police and prosecutors, expanded foot patrols, and forced all CJCC members to recognize the importance of having a plan of action.

When overcrowding at the jail became an issue in U.S. District Court, I remember a long CJCC meeting on a Saturday in City Hall. Mayor Schaefer called this emergency meeting in order to address concerns for the health and safety of prisoners and the need to reduce the jail's population in a measured and appropriate way. These discussions eventually led to a consent decree approved by the court. All decisions were vigorously debated, but the mayor's personal commitment to successfully resolve the litigation won over the CJCC members. He always insisted his staff give their best professional efforts and he would handle any resulting political issues.

I was fortunate to work with Governor Schaefer during his tenure in Annapolis as head of the then-Juvenile Justice Advisory Council. He exhibited the same zeal and commitment to law enforcement, services for at-risk youth and their families, prevention and treatment programs for youth involved with alcohol and drugs, and always emphasized the importance of protecting public safety throughout out the state.

He was a tough, demanding, and impatient boss but supportive and loyal to those who worked with him. We have lost an inspiring leader. His presence is missed by all Marylanders.

Richard W. Friedman, Baltimore

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