Baltimore mayor ousts police commissioner, saying violence isn’t dropping fast enough

National/World News

**Embargo: Baltimore, MD**

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh introduces new Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa on Friday, January 19, 2018.

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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.

Mayor Catherine Pugh elevated Deputy Commissioner Darryl D. DeSousa, saying she’d tried to work hand-in-hand with Davis during her 13 months in office but needed to see more progress.

DeSousa said one of his first initiatives — already underway Friday — is to put more uniformed officers on the streets and to place them in “strategic locations,” such as areas near “problematic businesses.”

His promotion comes after Baltimore tallied more than 340 homicides in 2017 — the highest yearly number on record there in more than two decades.

“I’m impatient,” Pugh said in a news conference Friday morning. “We need violence reduction. We need the numbers to go down faster than they are.”

“This commissioner (Davis) worked hard, but I’m looking for new … ways to change what we’re seeing here every day,” she said. “I need my police department to give me creative ideas.”

The firing of Davis, who was promoted from deputy to commissioner in 2015 amid a public uproar over the death in police custody of city resident Freddie Gray, shakes up a department that has seen its share of recent challenges.

That includes the homicide rate, as well as a 2016 Justice Department report that found Baltimore police had long engaged in racial bias against African-Americans. Further, criminal charges were filed against several officers accused of filing false affidavits and stopping people to seize their money.

New commissioner: We’re coming for ‘the trigger-pullers’

DeSousa, 53, has served in every rank with Baltimore police since he started there in 1988, he said, and has been Davis’ deputy commissioner for the patrol bureau since August 2015.

Details about his plan to deploy more uniformed officers weren’t immediately clear. But he said his main priorities were to reduce violence and crack down on violent, repeat offenders.

“I have a real strong message for the trigger-pullers: We’re coming after them,” DeSousa said. “It’s going to be (an) accelerated pace. The district commanders in all nine districts know who they are. And we’re coming after them.”

Davis took charge amid Freddie Gray protests

Davis, the outgoing commissioner, was promoted in July 2015 by then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake amid the outcry over Gray’s death.

Three months earlier, Baltimore police had arrested Gray, a 25-year-old black man, after officers found him with a knife in his pocket. Gray died after suffering a neck injury while being transported in a police van.

A Baltimore grand jury indicted six police officers on a range of charges, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. But after three officers were acquitted, charges against the others were dropped. Baltimore officials in September 2015 approved a $6.4 million settlement with Gray’s family for all civil claims tied to his death.

Rawlings-Blake promoted Davis, ousting then-Commissioner Anthony Batts, amid anger over the department’s handling of protests over Gray’s death. The city’s police union had said in a report that the riots were preventable and fueled by the “passive stance” adopted by Batts and top commanders.

Pugh took office in December 2016.

Pugh, in a message last year accompanying a violence-reduction strategy report, said Gray’s death “escalated the erosion of trust in our BPD.”

“Baltimore City is singularly focused on violence reduction,” she said then. “Improving quality of life through economic progress, health and wellness, and youth development reduces violence in communities, as evidenced by the success of other cities that have tackled increases in violent crime.”

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