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

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.

"Then after Norris, you get a dose of [Kevin] Clark. And a completely different strategy altogether. I’ll leave you with just one adage from the Clark administration. This is a very clear example of how people inside [the Baltimore Police Department] knew what worked, and people from the outside had no clue. We're about to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a pretty historic death: Marty Ward. A very famous drug case. He was an undercover detective, killed in the line of duty in a drug buy that went bad. Executed in the second floor of a house. After that death, we reserved undercover buys for the biggest targets we could think of. Guys we couldn’t get any other ways. So we didn’t do it a lot. Not because we were afraid, not just because of Marty Ward. But we said to each other, if we’re going to do this, it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal. And the people we get are a really big deal.  Who else knew that? The judges knew that. It still meant something to sell dope to a cop. It meant something. We put you in plainclothes, we send you out. It wasn’t TV stuff. If we gave you 20 bucks of marked money and bought two pills and we went and locked that guy up, it meant something. It was a very clear signal that we were serious about that guy. Because most of the judges knew about Marty Ward too. They knew about our history and about our policing tactics, of this agency. It meant something.

"Anyone know what Clark's strategy to solve drug dealing in Baltimore was?  His core strategy was that he believed we could buy dope from all the drug dealers and put them out of business. It's preposterous, right? Why do we know that? Because you wear this uniform and patrol these streets. It would be like you tomorrow, you’re the police chief of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and on the plane ride out, you’re writing down all this stuff about how to solve crime in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Could you do it? No. Hell no.

"He had this idea, he’d train all these [undercover] teams, New York-style. He brought in New York guys to train Baltimore guys about how to police in Baltimore, and we’re going to buy dope from everybody and fill the jails up with drug dealers. And then there’s no one to sell dope.

"It's impossible to do. Forget the impracticality of it. but in an instance, by way of an ill-advised police strategy, what happened to our tactic? It's gone. Because guess who knew we weren’t serious anymore? The judges. Now, instead of taking a handful a year and saying, I don’t know what you did son, but they used buy-bust on you, you’re going to jail. Selling to a cop is an instant felony. Whether you sold one pill or 5,000 pills, it’s a felony in an instant. A bag of weed? Felony. You go to jail. And now you had hundreds of cops all over the city, buying from everybody indiscriminately, the judges figured that out too. There’s no priorities here. How are you telling me this guy is a bigger priority than the 386 guys I have on my docket today? So guess who went to jail. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody went to jail behind a tactic that worked for us for years, and it's gone. Gone. In one move. In one stroke, gone.

"And so, we moved through that. We moved through that. We had Commissioner [Leonard] Hamm for a minute. Really tried to straddle two worlds, parts of Norris, parts of Frazier, and now me. Most of you didn’t come through the ranks as I came, with a solid base of BPD. What you’ve had is the Frazier, Norris, Clark, Hamm, and now Bealefeld era. Your policing career looks like this in terms of policing strategies [waving his hand in a zig-zag]. Because I understand cops a little bit, you know what you do? [You say] "I hear Bealefeld about his training, and I’ll come to [Diamond Standard Training] because it’s something else I have to do. But I’ll play the game, because when I go back, I’m just gonna get in my car and do it the way I do it. That’s what cops will do, sarge. They hear all that. but at the end of the day, they say, I hear all this mess, he’ll be gone in a minute. I’m just gonna keep doing what I do. Right?

"Think about the results we’ve had, if we keep doing it the way we’re doing it. There’s a better way. And it has to start with a foundation, with a commitment to do it a better way. I’m not inventing something new. I’m just trying to break us out of a mold of ineffectiveness. If for nothing else, trust me on this part: you’re at least getting reoriented. At least getting reoriented in a major way."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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