John Lloyd Bergbower, a Johns Hopkins Medicine security vice president who as a city police commander battled drug buyers in Southwest Baltimore, suffered a fall at his North Baltimore home Sunday and died later that day at Sinai Hospital. He was 60.
"He didn't need to run into a burning building or take on an armed gunman to know that John Bergbower was a courageous man," said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who served under him in the Southwestern District nearly 15 years ago. "He was a very smart, capable person with an air of confidence about him that made an impression on a young sergeant like myself."
Born on Kauai, Hawaii, he moved to Baltimore as a child and was a 1969 Cardinal Gibbons High School graduate. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University.
Family members said he began his police career as a beat officer in the Eastern District in 1974. His first assignment was the neighborhood just south of Hopkins Hospital.
"His dedication to public service and the excellence with which he served the community was embodied in all of his work for the Baltimore Police Department," said his daughter, Emily Anne Smith Bergbower of Baltimore.
He rose through his department's ranks. In 1997, Commissioner Thomas Frazier promoted him from lieutenant to major, and he took command of the Southwestern District.
News articles said Major Bergbower battled the city's drug culture and was an outspoken critic of drug users from Baltimore's suburbs who patronized dealers on city street corners. The drug commerce, he said, hurt neighborhoods where innocent residents grew outraged at the flagrancy of the transactions and the violence that often accompanied them.
"These are viable taxpaying homeowners who have lived in their homes for years, and they are watching their neighborhood crash around them," he said in a 1998 Baltimore Sun article. "They don't know what to do, and they want us to do something about it."
The article said he wanted to erect a billboard on Washington Boulevard reading: "Welcome to Baltimore. If you are coming here to buy drugs, you might be buying from a police officer."
He also said suburban residents knew that the distribution of drugs was a dangerous trade. "Yet they are willing to come here, get out of their cars and walk to a vacant rowhouse in the middle of the block in the inner city," he said in the newspaper article. "It astounds me. The average citizen thinks this is an inner-city problem. It's not. My drug dealers are making a living off middle-class citizens who come here to buy drugs and then retreat to their homes in relative safety."
In 2000, he led a sting operation at Poplar Grove Street and Westwood Avenue. His officers pushed regular drug dealers off the street, set up lookouts a block or two away, and established a drug market, according to a Sun account. They arrested 53 drug purchasers, some from Cockeysville, Gaithersburg, Essex, Middle River, Woodlawn, Marriottsville, Crownsville, Jessup, Ellicott City, Linthicum and Columbia.
After 27 years in the department, he retired as commanding officer of the Special Investigations Section of the Criminal Investigation unit in 2001.
He then initially worked at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation as director of enforcement for the financial regulation commissioner. News article said he fought payday loan and check-cashing schemes, as well as real estate property flipping violations.
In 2003, he became director of investigations for the security department of Hopkins' East Baltimore campus. This year, he was named Hopkins vice president for corporate security, parking and transportation. He had previously served as the senior director of corporate security and oversaw security, parking and transportation operations on the East Baltimore campus, as well as the security operations at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and at Howard County General Hospital.
"John was greatly respected for the outstanding leadership, integrity and professionalism which he brought to the job every day," said Ronald R. Peterson, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. "He was also greatly liked and admired for his ... good humor, warmth and collegiality. He will be greatly missed by all those who had the good fortune to have worked with him."
He also taught at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.
Funeral services will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 26 years, the former Patricia Anne Smith; and two sisters, Linda Bergbower of Preston and Sheila DiSaia of Seaford, Del.