We don't know what unfathomable lapse in judgment or personal demon led now-ex Harlem Public Safety Director Jerry Baldwin to attempt to shoplift from the Evans Wal-Mart.
What we do know is that his actions come as a complete shock to everyone who knows him. And we know that, for a city its size, Harlem sure has seen more than its share of drama lately.
Baldwin was caught last Thursday with about $13 worth of insignificant items stuffed in his pockets, after having paid for other merchandise. When Wal-Mart loss prevention officers nabbed him, Baldwin admitted doing a "stupid thing."
After being banned from the store, a remorseful Baldwin also did the right thing: He took responsibility for his actions and resigned as police chief.
Some cynics have attempted to claim Baldwin, 47, got special treatment when he wasn't charged with shoplifting. But as Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris points out, by company policy Wal-Mart doesn't prosecute shoplifters who steal items worth less than $25. Such a rule seems destined to invite petty theft, but that's Wal-Mart's problem.
In any event, Baldwin actually gets worse treatment than most petty criminals; he lost his job at a bad time to be without one, and the circumstances of his departure will make finding future employment in his line of work even tougher.
For Columbia County's smallest city, it's another unfortunate black eye. City officials currently are facing a civil suit from a pair of disgruntled homeowners; a fired contractor is suing the city; and the public works director is under federal indictment.
Unlike Baldwin's case, those issues aren't likely to be resolved with a quick resignation.
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