Bernard "Bernie" Harper, city police major
Veteran police officer who rose from patrolman to district commander was known for public relations expertise
Bernard "Bernie" Harper, a retired decorated Baltimore Police Department major who had commanded the Northwestern District, died of cancer at his Northeast Baltimore home. He was 73. (Baltimore Sun / February 7, 2012)
He was 73.
"I always considered Bernie as one of my outstanding commanders in the department. He was well-respected by all under his command and by community groups, who said many complimentary things about him," said Edward V. Woods, who served as Baltimore police commissioner from 1989 to 1993.
"It was Baltimore's loss when he retired, as well as the department's and the community's. He was just an outstanding all-around man," said Mr. Woods.
The son of a barber and confectioner's shop owner, Bernard Harper was born in Baltimore and raised near Paca and Pearl streets.
After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1957, he served in the Army for three years. When he left the service, he worked as a voucher examiner for the Veterans Administration until entering the Baltimore Police Academy in 1968.
He joined the police force, and while assigned to the Central District, he earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from what is now Baltimore City Community College.
"He and I went back to the days of the foot post, and he was a community-oriented police officer, that was Bernie," recalled Mr. Woods. "He'd reach out to the community and made personal contact with lots of people."
By 1972, he was working as a tactical patrolman out of the Southeastern District, and by the late 1970s was a plainclothes officer assigned to the Southwestern District.
As a detective, he was a member of a special tactical section known as the Stop Squad that helped reduce crime on Pennsylvania Avenue.
He steadily moved up the department's chain of command and in 1979 headed the Community Relations Council at the Northwestern District. While with the council, he helped set up one of the first citizens patrol groups in the city.
In 1984, he was promoted to captain and assigned to the criminal investigation division. A year later, then-Commissioner Bishop L. Robinson promoted him to major and named him commander of the Northeastern District and later the Northwestern District.
"He was very articulate and a hardworking guy. He was respected by his peer group," said Richard A. Hite Jr., who retired from the department after 31 years in 2009 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
"He was looked up to and was an outspoken leader in the community. He was easygoing but a stickler for details," said Colonel Hite. "One thing about Bernie: You always knew where you stood with him."
John A. Barnes was another longtime colleague.
"We kind of followed one another promotionwise," said Colonel Barnes, who retired in 1989.
"I first met Bernie in the late 1970s when we roamed the city in a drug enforcement unit," said Colonel Barnes. "He was the type of individual, if he could help you, he would. He'd take new officers in the unit under his wing and show them the ropes. He set the tone."
He added: "He was a good side partner. I'd trust my life with Bernie without a doubt."
Michael J. Andrew worked in drug enforcement for 22 years and retired last year as a lieutenant colonel after 38 years with the department.