Baltimore mayor replaces police commissioner

Baltimore mayor replaces police commissioner

Baltimore's mayor on Friday ousted city Police Commissioner Kevin Davis in favor of one of his deputies, saying the city wasn't reducing violence fast enough amid a soaring homicide rate. "The fact is, we are not achieving the pace of progress that our residents have every right to expect in the weeks since we ended what was almost a record year for homicides in the City of Baltimore". "The road ahead will be hard, but members of the City Council stand ready to partner with Mayor Pugh, Commissioner Designate DeSousa and the men and women of the police department as we continue the process of reforming policing practices in our city".

The change in commissioner comes on the heels of mounting criticism against Pugh herself, in relation to Baltimore's homicide rate.

"There's going to be officers on foot addressing problematic businesses, and quite frankly, we know where those businesses are", DeSousa said.

"He's been there for 30 years and that's the guy who's going to change things up?" said resident Gerald Spann, who was washing the windows of a convenience store where gunmen and officers exchanged a barrage of gunfire earlier this week.

DeSousa, a New York City native who moved to Baltimore in 1983 and went to Morgan State University, will assume responsibility for the department immediately, the mayor said.

"Baltimore has always been my home and I've spent my career on its streets and in its neighborhoods to address problems and bring about solutions", DeSousa said, in a news release.

DeSousa said his main priorities were to reduce violence and crack down on violent, repeat offenders. "And I want to let everybody know that it will be done in a constitutional manner", DeSousa said. An initiative related to this began this morning with a "surplus of officers" hitting the streets.

DeSousa's appointment will require approvals for the position to become permanent.

Baltimore ended 2017 with 343 killings, bringing the annual homicide rate to its highest ever - roughly 56 killings per 100,000 people.

Additionally, rank-and-file officers had expressed disdain for Davis and a 1999 "unlawful detainment" incident often hung over his head.

"There has been no one else who has been replaced outside of Police Commissioner Davis", said spokeswoman Amanda Rodrigues-Smith. The mayor believes he has not just the experience for the job, but the respect of his fellow officers.

Initial reaction to the change from inside the department was positive.

Councilperson Brandon Scott, who stood by the mayor and DeSousa's side, held his own press conference after the mayor's and praised DeSousa. "We have someone that understands every aspect of the city". We are coming after them.

While it's too early to tell what effects the change in command will have, residents say the more eyes on crime the area has, the safer they feel. "He understands what it means to be young and black and how we have to show better respect and fix the relationship in order for Baltimore to be better".

In 2015, the Board of Estimates agreed to a five-year contract with Davis that included severance pay.

DeSousa, saying she'd tried to work hand-in-hand with Davis during her 13 months in office but needed to see more progress. He still lives in Baltimore and is the father of two grown children.