BALTIMORE - After 31 years on the police force, Commissioner Fred Bealefeld packed up his office Tuesday. Only ABC2News cameras were there for his last day.
Bealefeld says he wasn't comfortable with his decision until a month ago. But after a long isolated, hiking trip, he's ready to embrace it.
Bealefeld says, ""I spent 24 days just inside my own head and so it was, you don't get that opportunity when your caught in the midst of those sirens and the chaos of the city and the chess match that's this job...you don't get a chance to do that."
He says he's had an impact. The numbers are well-documented. He celebrates a run of five years of decreasing violent crime and a homicide rate not seen since the 70s.
He says, "I just personally feel good about what I did for 31 years. Brian I know I worked my ass off here. I know I did. I know I gave it a thousand percent in everything I did."
It was back in 2009 when we first heard the phrase ‘Bad Guys with Guns,’ not just in a press conference but in action during a profile and ride-a-long through the Western District with Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.
He told us back then, for better or worse it would be the direction he was to drive his department for as long as he was commissioner.
It was a targeted and focused crime fighting strategy the numbers five years later show has worked.
"It was very, very deliberate work. It wasn't just high tides, phases of the moon or solar flares that contributed to it. We weren't lucky. We were very deliberate, we were good at what we were doing," Bealefeld reflected.
Deliberate until a seemingly abrupt announcement this spring that Commissioner Fred Bealefeld would retire.
Tuesday at headquarters, Bealefeld packed up 31 years of a career and honors, handed in his gun and his badge and said his goodbyes.
A decision he says he is fine with now, but agonized over just a month ago.
Spending time with family is important, seeing what else is out there for him a consideration....but it was a changing of the guard at city hall that sealed the deal.
Bealefeld cites the resignations of Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty and the Director of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice Sheryl Goldstein as a real reason.
Both helped build the current crime strategy, both were brought in under Mayor Sheila Dixon and both resigned under the new administration.
"I was sad but not angry about it ending. I was sad about it ending. [Did you feel like you couldn't do the job the way you wanted to do it anymore?] Um, I felt like in many ways we would have to, not start over but rebuild big aspects of it," said Bealefeld.
It was a job the commissioner didn't want to do without key allies at city hall.
"When you start losing those kinds of ancillary support systems in there, it makes your life, not just the job, it makes your life much, much more difficult."
And so he said he knew it was his time to leave.
People move on and things change he says, including his 31 years in public service for this city; now choosing to strictly focus on his family, retirement and no longer those bad guys and their guns.
Bealefeld says he has no immediate plans for another career but says he will miss being a public servant the most and that whatever he chooses to do next, he will do so with as much energy and commitment as he said he gave his law enforcement career.
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