GBC’s Fry: Bealefeld charts new course for Baltimore’s public safety

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

The first thing you notice about Baltimore City Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld is his passion for his job.

Of course, you’d expect passion from someone who is newly appointed to the top job on the police force where he has served for 26 years.

But Bealefeld, who met recently with Greater Baltimore Committee leaders, does not project self-importance or vacuous enthusiasm of the moment. Instead, he projects a rock-solid, sincere commitment that is grounded in core law enforcement values he has acquired along the way.

The other thing you notice about Bealefeld is that he is direct. He doesn’t distance himself from what he knows will be the bottom-line measurement of his tenure – Baltimore’s murder rate.

The murder rate brings tragedy to city neighborhoods between 250 and 300 times a year. It also shapes the public perception of Baltimore City and detracts from its outstanding economic and cultural qualities, Bealefeld acknowledges.

Statistically, violent crime and overall crime is down this year, and has been for four of the last five years. “But no one believes that,” Bealefeld says. “The fact is, until we get the murder rate under control, everything else is off the table,” he says.

Bealefeld’s right. His strategic plan focuses on gun offenses and targets the city’s most violent habitual offenders. “We need to make this city, this region, the toughest place in America on handling gun crime,” he says.

The commissioner embraces Mayor Dixon’s priority of community engagement and will make neighborhood foot patrols a “hallmark” of his tenure. Bealefeld also seeks to build strong partnerships with other criminal justice agencies and with business and community leaders.

His plan reflects Baltimore’s reality. It’s based on solid law enforcement practices drawn from his own experience and from strategies that have proven to be successful elsewhere.

Bealefeld grasps the challenges that come with the commissioner’s job. He knows that success will require a combination of passion, clear-headed strategic thinking, and teamwork — a combination that has eluded many of his predecessors.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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