In January, Colonel Frederick Bealefeld, 44, was named as the Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the 3,000-officer force. The Anne Arundel County native joined the BPD at age 19, and he comes from a family of officers; his great-grandfather, grandfather, great-uncle, and uncle were city cops; so is his brother. Since he's been on the force, there have been changes for the better ("Now, officers get a steady stream of information," he says, which "makes them and the citizens of the city much safer") and the worse (he cites "the explosion of drugs into the heart of the city, [into] its residential communities.")
Baltimore: Has the BPD seen any effects so far of its move away from some old, hard-line tactics and toward more community-based policing?
Bealefeld: I believe that we are seeing some results of changes we are making to our strategy. This year, violent crime is down another 20 percent [compared to 2006]. We have gotten significant buy-in from our Federal partners in our efforts to focus on specific, violent offenders, [and the] State's Attorney's Office is again working to help deal with youth offenders and gangs. At the same time, the number of arrests that we have made has come down significantly since 2005. Arrests were down nine percent last year, and are down another 16 percent this year. This is not to say we are out of the arrest business—there certainly are situations where an arrest should be our primary enforcement tool. Communities want us to solve problems, that's what we are paid to do, and we strive not to be locked into a one-dimensional tactic.
B: Can you envision a time when homicides in Baltimore will decline? What will that take? Is there a simple answer?
B: We work every single day to reduce crime in Baltimore, especially violent crime. Too many people—young men, teenagers just starting their lives, and police officers—have fallen victim in a city where there is so much promise. There really are a lot of dedicated people trying to solve this problem, many risking their lives daily . . . . There are solutions to the violence and the ravages of the drug trade in this city, but that resolve has to come from the streets. Tougher sentencing, partnerships, and technology are all incredibly valuable tools, but the community must be the engine.
B: What advice do you give to young officers?
B: This is a difficult career, and the victories or sense of accomplishment are often dictated by other people's standards or perspective. Police officers have to take their satisfaction and pride from the pages that they write, and not from someone else's book. Police make a difference in people's lives—we don't hear it everyday, not all of us get medals for it or wind up being Deputy Commissioner, but they really do make a difference. And in the morning they look in the mirror, or they tell their grandkids what was important and, in some small way, [they know that they] made a little piece of the world a better place.