After roughly two and a half years at the helm of the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has been let go.
Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Friday morning that she will promote Deputy Commissioner Darryl DeSousa to Davis’ position effective immediately.
“As one who has come up through the ranks, Commissioner-Designate DeSousa is widely respected by his fellow officers,” Pugh said in a statement. “Moreover, I have come to know him well during this past year given his leadership role in implementing the Violence Reduction Initiative and through our numerous other interactions.”
The mayor said in her statement that she is “grateful” to Davis “for all that he has done to implement the initiatives underway to address violent crime at it root causes.” But at a press conference, she added, “I’m impatient. We need violence reduction. We need the numbers to go down faster than they are.”
DeSousa, a three-decade veteran of the department, touted his experience serving in every rank on his climb to the top. “In those 30 years, a good 90 percent were directly inside the community itself all over Baltimore City.”
His top concern is actually his top three concerns, he said: “The priority as of this moment right now is really simple: it’s violence reduction. Second priority is violence reduction, and third priority is violence reduction.”
Davis was appointed to the department’s top position in July 2015 after then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Anthony Batts. Davis served previously as chief of police in Anne Arundel County for less than two years, and before that served in the Prince George’s County Police Department for over two decades.
He presided over the department during a historic stretch that included the trials of six officers charged and subsequently acquitted or let off the hook in Gray’s death, a federal pattern-or-practice investigation of the department’s practices, and negotiations and implementation of court-ordered police reform.
But his two full years at the helm were also fraught with grisly homicide totals — 318 in 2016 and a near-record 344 last year — as well as fallout from the infamous racketeering indictments of plainclothes officers on the Gun Trace Task Force and the mysterious on-duty death of homicide detective Sean Suiter in November 2017. Overtime spending also soared under his watch, and police-community relations remained tense at times even as Davis touted the importance community policing.
At press conferences involving murder cases, Davis often referred to armed repeat violent offenders as “trigger pullers,” a phrase DeSousa repeated at the podium Friday. “We’re coming after them,” he said, adding, “and it’s going to be done in a constitutional manner.”
DeSousa told reporters a new anti-violence initiative began minutes before the press conference, with a “surplus” of officers being deployed to streets through the day. They will be placed in “strategic corridors of the city” in Baltimore’s four most violence-plagued districts, he said.
The department will ramp up community patrols under DeSousa’s watch, he said. He also hopes to reduce overtime spending and will de-centralize certain units in the department to get them to work more closely with district police officials.
Pugh’s message about Davis’ firing was similar to that from Rawlings-Blake about Batts, who she hired in 2012 and let go three years later as homicides shot up after Gray’s death and unrest spread throughout the city. “Recent events have put an intense focus on our police leadership,” Rawlings-Blake said, “distracting many from what needs to be our main focus: The fight against crime.”
This story has been updated.
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