Flashback: Bealefeld from 2009 on Baltimore's history with outside commissioners

August 29, 2012|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Anthony W. Batts, the former Long Beach and Oakland chief who is poised to become Baltimore's next police commissioner, is making the rounds - shaking hands with officers, speaking at district roll calls and joining citizens on neighbor walks.

The city police union has said that they are looking forward to Batts taking the helm, but within the department many are grousing about the prospect of an outsider turning the agency upside-down. It's not unexpected until Batts gets a chance to prove himself. For his part, Batts said he will take his time evaluating the agency before determining whether change is needed.

"I can tweak things, but I don't want to dump Long Beach on Baltimore," he said. 

The internal concerns recalled for me a speech former Police Commissioner Frederck H. Bealefeld III made to a class of officers at the department's training academy in 2009, which The Sun attended [Bealefeld declined to comment on Batts' selection Tuesday].

If nothing else, it's a history lesson from the perspective of a long-time cop. One of Bealefeld's biggest goals during his tenure was to offer stability - to insitute a sense of pride and history in the Police Department, and to get the agency to sustain a methodology, from training to tactics, after years of being jostled around as different commissioners, from California and New York, implemented their own styles. He said the shift in philosophies left officers cynical and not willing to buy into any of them.

Here's the unedited transcript of Bealefeld's 2009 speech:

"In my career, the biggest chunk in the beginning was comprised of guys who were from here. a steady succession of commissioners from inside the police department. We knew what BPD guys do, we train like BPD guys. We  had the culture of the BPD, we had the history of the BPD, and we did that. We had a fairly consistent policing strategy through the biggest chunks of our careers. Consistent, though not effective. Make sure you know the distinction. Consistent, though not effective. Maybe pretty effective in my grandfather’s time, in the '60s, '70s. But then as it lost more and more effectiveness, what happened?

"They went outside. And the first iteration of that was [San Jose Police Chief] Tom Frazier. Obviously, if you’re running a snowball stand and hire a new manager, they’re going to do things differently. We went in a different direction. We became sector managers. There was this notion of sector management. There was the rotation policy, very famous. There was, he created PAL [Police Athletic League]. A lot of community emphasis. A lot. Without really understanding what the community was in Baltimore. This is a guy who grew up West Coast policing.

"This is how ironic this is. If you’ve just been there, isn’t it dramatically different? Lifestyles, the weather. A lot of things are dramatically different. Even the populations are different. Our city’s predominately African American. The industries are different. They’re not founded on blue collar rust belt technologies. Their grandparents and parents and families didn’t grow up working in the steel mills at Beth Steel and GM. Their histories aren’t even the same.

"And so, he comes from the West Coast, brings West Coast policing strategies to Baltimore. And, uh, I’ll let you be your own judge about how effective the was.  Then after Frazier for a minute, we had a couple twists and turns but we wound up with then [Edward] Norris. And, how many were here for Norris? He had a very different strategy. Very, strict enforcement, New York-style, based on [Jack] Maple’s tutelage, and others. A very, very strict enforcement model. Almost the antithesis of where Frazier was. The complete opposite.

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