Following federal tax evasion charges, Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has resigned and Mayor Catherine Pugh has accepted his resignation, the mayor announced today.
Gary Tuggle will continue to serve as acting commissioner, a role he took on after the mayor suspended De Sousa, while Pugh conducts a nationwide search for a replacement. He had previously been appointed by De Sousa as the deputy commissioner of BPD’s Support Services Bureau.
Pugh released the following statement: “I want to reassure all Baltimoreans that this development in no way alters our strategic efforts to reduce crime by addressing its root causes in our most neglected neighborhoods. This broad-based, grassroots approach – underpinned by the utilization of new crime-fighting technology – is working and will continue to be effective as indicated by the downward trend in violence. The Baltimore Police command staff is fully committed to bringing about the reforms to the practices and culture of the department that we are implementing and which are vital to ensuring the trust and confidence of all our citizens.”
De Sousa’s term lasted about four months.
After a violent 2017 under the watch of former commissioner Kevin Davis, Pugh said a change at the top was urgent.
“I’m impatient,” Pugh said at a Jan. 19 press conference announcing the promotion. “We need violence reduction. We need the numbers to go down faster than they are.”
During that brief tenure, Pugh and De Sousa touted new crime-fighting strategies that they said led to demonstrable gains in violence reduction.
But shootings and homicides began to tick up again during a violent April that saw 34 homicides in 30 days.
From the start, activists questioned De Sousa’s rapid ascension and confirmation, pointing to two past shootings that left three dead.
They called for a community policing model similar to the one instituted in Camden, New Jersey after the department there was disbanded, and saw De Sousa as a continuation of business as usual–a particularly pointed critique as testimony on corruption by the Gun Trace Task Force continued to make headlines.
Things did not go smoothly soon after he was appointed to be the city’s top cop, as the Real News Network points out. Days after being tapped by Pugh, he tried to appoint Sgt. Alicia White, one of the officers charged with Freddie Gray’s death, to a position with Internal Affairs. After the news was leaked to the press, the department denied it.
Similarly, when De Sousa tried to appoint retired Maj. Thomas Cassella to be one of his deputy commissioners, Cassella’s Internal Affairs file was leaked, revealing past allegations of racial discrimination. The BPD and Cassella decided to part ways.
And then, last week, federal authorities announced charges against De Sousa for failing to file taxes in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In a statement, he admitted to failing to file returns.
After initially saying De Sousa had her full confidence, Pugh decided to suspend him.
In an interesting bit of coincidence, news of De Sousa’s resignation spread as Gov. Larry Hogan was sitting down to sign a bill, championed by State Sen. Bill Ferguson, to create a special commission to investigate BPD corruption in the wake of the Gun Trace Task Force case.
On Facebook, Ferguson said De Sousa’s resignation was the right decision but also an “inevitable” one. And then he laid into Pugh, calling the apparently poor vetting process that did not flag the tax issue “a failure of leadership.”
“Moving forward, there is nothing more important than finding the right Commissioner for this critical moment in Baltimore’s history,” he said. “There’s no room for another failure of this magnitude.”