Mayor Catherine Pugh has suspended Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa with pay as a result of the federal charges filed against him for failing to file tax returns for three straight years.
A shaken Pugh told reporters during a press conference at City Hall today that De Sousa has been placed on paid suspension “effective immediately.”
The mayor heralded the commissioner’s work leading the Baltimore Police Department over the last several months, which included cuts in violent crime rates. However, she said, “I believe his suspension pending resolution of this matter is in the best interest of the Baltimore Police Department, the city of Baltimore and him personally.”
Stepping into his place is Gary Tuggle, formerly deputy commissioner of BPD’s Support Services Bureau and now acting commissioner of the police force. Tuggle, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent who got his start as a Baltimore police officer, rejoined the department in March. De Sousa appointed him to be one of his two deputy commissioners, alongside Andre Bonaparte, head of BPD’s Operations Bureau.
“All Baltimore citizens can be assured that these developments will in no way impede our relentless effort to make our city safer,” Pugh said.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that De Sousa had been charged with three federal misdemeanor counts of failing to file a tax return in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each charge carries up to a year in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Prosecutors are also investigating him further “for additional violations of federal criminal law,” according to a sealing motion document filed Tuesday.
De Sousa readily admitted fault within hours.
“While there is no excuse for my failure to fulfill my obligations as a citizen and public official, my only explanation is that I failed to sufficiently prioritize my personal affairs,” he said in a statement put out by the Baltimore Police Department.
“I accept full responsibility for this mistake and am committed to resolving this situation as quickly as possible,” he added.
Pugh had initially said Thursday that De Sousa, who she tapped to replace Kevin Davis in January, “made a mistake in not filing his taxes” but had her “full confidence” to lead the BPD.
His hiring had already drawn scrutiny in January, when critics pointed to his record of involvement in several police shootings—two of them fatal—during the 1990s.
Pugh remarked on the vetting process today: “Let me just say I think we’ve learned a few lessons. I thought we vetted him pretty well. We went through all of his police credentials.”
The mayoral administration has come under fire over its vetting of candidates, with the most prominent example being Pugh’s short-lived appointment of spokesman Darryl Strange. The same day Pugh announced Strange’s hiring, The Sun found he was involved in three lawsuits filed against police between 2006 and 2011, when he served as a city officer. Strange had resigned by the evening.
Asked whether she knew of the charges against De Sousa before they were announced Thursday, Pugh said “absolutely not,” and told reporters she learned of them “just as you did, just as everybody did.”
Pugh repeated that crime had been trending downward under De Sousa’s leadership—albeit less so recently, with shootings in particular trending upward in recent weeks.
“This is a personal matter,” she said, “and I hope he gets it taken care of.”
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