- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon will announce within the next two weeks whether she will appoint the District’s former police chief as police commissioner, a spokesman said yesterday.

After winning the city’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday night, Mrs. Dixon will focus on deciding whether acting Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III or former Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey will lead the city’s police department, Dixon spokesman Anthony McCarthy said.

“Public safety is probably the No. 1 concern of this mayor,” Mr. McCarthy said. “She has been kind of distracted with the mayoral campaign.”

Baltimore has recorded a spike its rate of homicides, which are on pace to break 300 this year for the first time since 1999.

As of yesterday, the city had recorded 215 killings this year compared with 191 at the same time last year, a police spokesman said.

The city finished last year with 276 homicides, according to FBI statistics. Over the past four years, the number of killings has hovered at about 270.

Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Ramsey is being considered for the police chief’s job in part for his work in reducing the District’s homicide rate during his tenure, from April 1998 to the end of last year.

The number of homicides in the District decreased from 301 in the last full year before Mr. Ramsey took over the 3,800-member force to 169 last year. The rate of violent crime in the city dropped across the board.

Mr. Ramsey’s critics complained that police presence was not visible and that the chief did not put enough officers on the streets.

Mr. McCarthy said Mrs. Dixon has made a priority of cutting the homicide rate and has devised a public safety strategy to target violent crime and the city’s most violent offenders.

The plan emphasizes the Baltimore Exile program, which prosecutes gun crimes in federal court and targets gun trafficking.

Mrs. Dixon’s plan contrasts with the zero-tolerance policy of her predecessor, Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who left the mayor’s office early this year to become governor.

Mr. McCarthy said Commissioner Bealefeld and Mr. Ramsey are aware of Mrs. Dixon’s strategy and expectations.

“The mayor said she will defer to the people she chooses to run her agencies,” Mr. McCarthy said. “But she does have a public safety strategy and the candidates are aware of that.”

Messages left yesterday for both candidates were not returned.

Mrs. Dixon was accused of playing politics by mentioning the names of her commissioner candidates before the Democratic primary, but Mr. McCarthy said Mrs. Dixon was simply keeping a promise to make public safety a priority.

Mr. McCarthy said Mrs. Dixon has interviewed 10 candidates since Commissioner Leonard Hamm stepped down under pressure in July.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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