The people of Baltimore depend on the mayor, police commissioner and state’s attorney to work together to increase the safety of the city. By and large, they do not care how it is done – as long as it does not infringe on their rights as they remain inside the bounds of the law – but they do expect it to be done, and done right.
Accomplishing that goal as a team does not require the parties be friends or even like each other. It does require a mutual respect for the role each person has to play in the process and the abilities of the elected or appointed person to do their job.
The ability of the mayor and the state’s attorney to carry out the obligations of their roles is decided by the voters of the Baltimore City. The ability of the police commissioner to fulfill his duties is decided by the mayor.
Therefore, when a person in a non-elected position makes a public statement in support of a candidate opposing one of his counterparts in the crucial triad for providing the public’s safety – whether as a private citizen or a public official– all the public notices is the flashing red danger lights.
So in the case of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, his yard sign promoting existing State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy’s opponent in the upcoming primary elections and Jessamy’s response sent some serious messages; and the mayor’s comment about the Bealefeld sign added to the confusion.
It says the police commissioner does not believe in the ability of the state’s attorney to fulfill her duties. It says that despite the favorable numbers regarding the decrease in violent crime the mayor and police commissioner promote, there is a serious problem with the working relationship of the triad. It leaves the people to wonder if the safety of the city is in jeopardy because this issue has the potential to render the triad dysfunctional.
Jessamy is right to cry foul.
Bealefeld is a powerful city figure, not only well liked in the community, but highly respected, too. His voice on this issue, while not legally wrong could be inordinately prejudicial, especially as there has been no comment to define his reasoning, only a sign on the lawn of his home for a few days, just long enough to plant the seed of doubt.
Whether or not the public believes Jessamy has the right stuff for the job, having the police commissioner take an unexplained shot at her candidacy could leave voters wondering, not if she can do the job, but whether leaving her in office makes the city less safe because the triad in charge will no longer be functional. Bealefeld’s actions have the potential to make this election into something other than a determination of who the people believe will provide the best service in the role of state’s attorney.
But that is really all it should be about.