After rise in killings, police leader replaced in Baltimore

Andrew Cummings
January 21, 2018

Baltimore's police commissioner has been replaced, effective immediately, as the city tries to reduce violence.

"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", Pugh said in the release. "As such, I have concluded that a change in leadership is needed at police headquarters".

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was relieved of his command by Mayor Catherine Pugh, who said it was time for new leadership to deal with the murders.

Unlike Davis and previous commissioner Anthony Batts, DeSousa is veteran BPD, with the force since 1988.

"I firmly believe that Commissioner-Designate DeSousa has the ideas, approach and demonstrated track record that will enable him to lead an accelerated effort to get criminals off our streets, reduce violence and restore public safety - and peace of mind - throughout the neighborhoods", Pugh said. "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".

"As I have clarified, decreasing viciousness and reestablishing the certainty of our residents in their cops is my most astounding need", Pugh said.

DeSousa, 53, is a NY native who joined the department in 1988, and for the past year has led the patrol division.

"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 that are meaningful for the people we serve", he said.

"We're coming after them". An initiative related to this began this morning with a "surplus of officers" hitting the streets. His appointment will be made permanent following "appropriate approvals", Pugh's office said. It also comes after an uptick in homicides, with 343 killings recorded in 2017, setting a new city record for killings per capita. Sean Suiter, which has not yet been solved.

"There has been no one else who has been replaced outside of Police Commissioner Davis", said spokeswoman Amanda Rodrigues-Smith.

The mayor's office said it was just a "technical issue".

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.

DeSousa said he had a message for the city's violent repeat offenders, a rotating cast of so-called "trigger pullers" that law enforcers have long said are responsible for an outsized percentage of the city's high crime rates. Sgt. Louis Hopson, who filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit against the department alleging discrimination against Black officers, said the move was a step in the right direction. Someone who has respect of the community.

He also said the current increase was deliberately timed to coincide with the first anniversary of a 13-day stretch - January 19 through 31, 2017 - during which the city had an "unacceptable" count of 18 homicides and 40 nonfatal shootings. "I think he truly understands the department and the people of Baltimore".

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