Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm, hired to stabilize a department in turmoil but under fire as the city’s homicide count soars, was fired by Mayor Sheila Dixon, the Baltimore Sun reports. Dixon has been struggling to craft a response to the rise in homicides and shootings that have sapped police morale and become fodder for her rivals in this year’s election. Frederick H. Bealefeld III, deputy commissioner of operations and a 26-year police veteran, is expected to serve as acting commissioner.
Hamm’s departure leaves the city without a commissioner at a critical time — when homicides threaten to reach the record-high rates of the 1990s — and will become an issue in this year’s Democratic primary, as Dixon faces a number of candidates who see crime as her biggest vulnerability. Dixon’s leading opponent, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. — who had called for Hamm’s resignation weeks ago — issued a statement last night criticizing his tenure, and several other mayoral candidates are planning events today to address the issue. Hamm, 58, was named acting police commissioner by then-Mayor Martin O’Malley in November 2004, O’Malley’s fourth commissioner in less than five years.