In the last two years, the Baltimore Police Department has been hit by a series of crises that may have collectively eclipsed early controversies in the tenure of Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, says the Baltimore Sun. In January, the agency was rocked when a plainclothes officer was fatally shot by fellow officers outside a nightclub. More than 50 officers have been implicated in a kickback scheme with a towing company, and this week, a veteran officer was indicted on charges that he led a heroin trafficking organization, including allegations he dealt drugs while on duty — and on police property. Murders and shootings are also up, albeit slightly.
Some wonder if the department is suffering from a crisis of leadership, and how long Bealefeld can continue to weather such storms. “I would have to use the scenario of a baseball team — you might have a good manager, but sooner or later you can’t get rid of the nine players or the whole team,” said Larry Young, the influential radio host and former state senator. “I think the ice is getting thin.” City officials say the department has cast the spotlight on itself in the recent misconduct cases, by rooting out the problems and laying them out for public scrutiny. Bealefeld is entering his fifth year of a $193,000-per-year contract that runs through 2014. He remains popular among elected officials and community leaders, and counts support from the city police union and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is seeking to retain her office in September’s Democratic primary. She said yesterday she is “confident in his leadership.”