Former Commissioner Davis calls for juvenile justice reform in first public remarks since firing

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Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Still via Baltimore Police/Periscope.

In his first remarks since being fired in January, former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called for an overhaul of the juvenile justice system during an appearance on “The C4 Show” on WBAL-AM earlier this morning.

But he declined to address his firing.

“The end game is never what you want it to be, but that’s just the business that we’re in,” he told host Clarence Mitchell IV. “And I wish the mayor well, I wish the city well.”

Instead, he wanted to focus on juvenile justice reforms following the death of Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio. A 16-year-old from West Baltimore,¬†Dawnta Harris, was charged with Caprio’s death after he allegedly ran over her with a car. Three other teens who were allegedly robbing a house in Nottingham as Harris sat in the car were also charged.

Calling the system “broken,” Davis suggested putting in place “non-negotiable standards” for detaining and rehabilitating young defendants, arguing there’s too much discretion in the process that puts kids back on the streets rather than getting them the help they need.

These would not be mandatory minimums, he said, but he drew a distinction between kids caught stealing candy from Royal Farms or spray painting graffiti and the carjackers and shooters. With the latter group, he offered that there should be stronger punishments in place.

“You have to be removed from society if you hurt people while you’re being rehabilitated,” he said.

The Department of Juvenile Services, Office of the Public Defender, Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office and court system are all playing “the blame game” right now instead of discussing reforms, he said.

“We have to have a thoughtful conversation, put the blame game away, put away the notion that only some people care about kids.”

He later added: “We have to press pause right now and fix this mess.”

Davis did offer praise for one of Harris’ attorneys, Warren Brown, calling him a “thoughtful guy” and telling Mitchell about how he and Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith once consulted with Brown.

“The services that Warren Brown is affording this young man, that’s what the American system is set up to do,” he said.

During the interview, Mitchell asked Davis to reflect on the 2015 unrest following the hospitalization and eventual death of Freddie Gray. Serving then as a deputy commissioner, Davis said it was “a surreal experience” and acknowledged there had been resentment building up in the community over decades because of the treatment by police.

Though he said he disagreed with parts of the Department of Justice’s patterns and practices report on the Baltimore police, which paved the way for a court-ordered consent decree to reform the department, he acknowledged the long history of police misconduct in communities of color.

“What they did talk about was decades and decades of disparate interactions with the police, particularly the African-American community,” he said.

Discussing the city’s current–and ever-present–crime problem, Davis seemed to think leadership was heading in the right direction with the ShotSpotter technology that triangulates the sound of gunfire and relays the information to police officers, as well as the mayor’s Violence Reduction Initiative that targets city services to areas of need.

He also gave an endorsement of Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle.

“Personally and professionally, his integrity is without question,” he said. “His credentials are without question.”

In the months since his dismissal, Davis has started a consulting company but is still mulling future plans, saying he would like to work in public safety but likely not in a position that would require him to don a uniform again.

“I’m still figuring out what’s next,” he said.

Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore Business Journal, b and others. Prior to joining Baltimore Fishbowl, he was an editor at City Paper from 2012 to 2017. He can be reached at [email protected]
Brandon Weigel


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