"There have been some issues behind some of the negative things ... that need to be fixed," said Douglas Ward, director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership in the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.
"Maybe someone from another city would bring some new ideas," said Ward, who spent 27 years with the Maryland State Police before retiring. "I would be looking for someone who can really get the nuts and bolts in order."
Ward said a healthy department can survive a leadership change with little impact. "But I think in Baltimore's case, it's going to be difficult. "There have been so many changes in leadership [over the past decade] and so many changes in philosophy, that many employees might be thinking, 'What's next?'"
A. Dwight Pettit, a defense attorney who has represented many people suing the Police Department, and Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon, a Baltimore pastor and civil rights leader, questioned whether "zero-tolerance" has really ended, saying they're hearing complaints that don't reflect the rhetoric.
"I believe that a confrontational situation still exists, an us-versus-them mentality," Pettit said.
Witherspoon questioned the way Bealefeld communicates, calling his "brash style" insensitive. "I don't mind saying that his style was a complete turnoff," the pastor said. "We need a commissioner who's tough on crime but someone who's compassionate as well."
But to the end, Bealefeld defends calling criminals morons and knuckleheads. He said he was just trying to tell it like it is, which he learned to do as a "blue-collar kid" with roots in Curtis Bay.
"I've tried to speak for the people of this city who are frustrated by these predators that circle their blocks at night ... they live in terror from these maniacs," Bealefeld said, packing as many of his "Bealefeldisms" as he could into a single statement.
"I considered them maniacs and morons and idiots for doing the crazy stuff they do to harm people of this city," he said. "And I am completely and absolutely unapologetic to hurting the feelings of any criminal or ne'er-do-wells."
Citizen Bealefeld might lose his megaphone, but he promised to be "passionate about what I do." He conceded, though, "I don't know what my future holds. I'm nervous about it."
Many city leaders appear nervous as well, challenging the mayor to ensure that the next commissioner maintains continuity. Change the person, but not the plan, and keep crime numbers down, they say.
City CouncilmanRobert W. Curransaid Bealefeld "left people reassured," but he has faith the mayor will find a replacement who won't let the department backslide on the crime numbers. "Obviously, if we keep going in the same direction, that's good," he said. "Let's keep the trend going."