A day after Darryl De Sousa resigned from his post as Baltimore Police Department commissioner, Mayor Catherine Pugh said during her weekly press conference that she owns the selection and promised to expand the vetting process.
Asked if De Sousa shared some of the blame because he withheld that he hadn’t paid his taxes in three different years, Pugh said, “I don’t have a great answer for that.”
“Again, I say I own the selection of Darryl De Sousa as commissioner for Baltimore City. I watched his work, I’m pleased with where we are in terms of reducing violence. But at the same time, I don’t control people’s personal lives.”
She maintained her commitment to further reducing violence in the city, pointing to year-over-year declines that show her administration’s initiatives are working.
Following the announcement of federal tax evasion charges against De Sousa last week, Pugh offered her support to the commissioner, only to later suspend him.
Going back over those remarks today, she explained that at the time she still had faith in his ability to run the department. As more details came out, it seemed appropriate for him to take a leave of absence, she said. But she evaded a question about whether she had asked for him to step down, repeating, “I received his resignation and I accepted it.”
She assured the city will be adding additional questions to the forms it gives applicants, though Pugh said she spoke with the heads of major corporations and they don’t ask about taxes.
City Solicitor Andre Davis said the vetting process would be “expansive,” including more focused and “invasive” questions, but declined to offer examples.
In going over the process that led to the pick, Pugh noted that De Sousa had worked his way up through the department, starting in patrol and going all the way up to deputy commissioner before he was tapped for the top job.
“Commissioner De Sousa was not somebody new to the Baltimore Police Department,” said Pugh. “We did vet, maybe not as thoroughly as some think we should’ve.”
When she started in October going to the police department’s downtown headquarters to discuss the Violence Reduction Initiative, Pugh said De Sousa was the member of the command staff that stood out.
“And while I was over at the police department watching the command staff, working with the police department, I can tell you that there was one person over there among the command staff that was totally engaged, that made suggestions in terms of how we even implement the Violence Reduction Initiative,” she said.
The city will now begin a national search for a candidate to replace De Sousa, though that does not preclude anyone currently with the department from applying. The mayor said she did not know if the Interim Commissioner, Gary Tuggle, had submitted his name for consideration.
Pledging to provide more details about how that search will be conducted once it starts, Pugh reassured the city will being dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s.
“We want to make sure that the next candidate for this particular position is well-scrutinized.”