by Moxye Staff
Darryl DeSousa, Baltimore’s new police commissioner, said Friday he has been given one directive by Mayor Catherine Pugh: reduce violence.
DeSousa was introduced by Pugh on Friday after the mayor announced earlier in the day she fired Kevin Davis from the role. A 30-year veteran of the police department, DeSousa said he has already rolled out a few initiatives aimed at driving down Baltimore’s high murder rate. The city had 343 homicides in 2017, the highest per-capita rate of any city in the country.
“We are working to reduce violence. Like, literally, ASAP,” said DeSousa, who was flanked by City Council members.
The first of these moves is to put more uniformed officers on the streets.
DeSousa said, starting at 9 a.m. Friday morning, he began putting more officers on the streets. The rollout will come in waves every hour, on the hour, until midnight. The increase in foot patrols will last for 13 days, he said, and the police department will consider keeping the increase up going forward.
The city’s 40th police commissioner said he will begin reassigning some officers from administrative jobs to patrol duty to account for this increase in foot patrols, and will also start taking some detectives out of the office and putting them on the streets.
These officers will be placed at what DeSousa referred to as “strategic locations” where there have historically been high crime rates, as well as “problematic businesses” that have been attractive to criminals.
“The No. 1 thing you’re going to see immediately is more police officers on the streets in uniform,” he said.
Other long-term goals for the police department include restoring trust in the city’s police force and decreasing the amount of money that the department spends on overtime pay for officers, he said.
Pugh said Friday she had been considering making a change at the top of the police department since the end of 2017.
“I’m impatient,” Pugh said. “We need violence reduction, and we need to see the numbers go down faster than they are.”
Davis led the department during a number of high-profile incidents, including federal charges against the Gun Trace Task Force, the members of which have been accused of racketeering and falsifying police reports. Davis eventually disbanded the task force.
Davis had also been leading the investigation into the death of Det. Sean Suiter, who was killed in the line of duty in November. Since Suiter’s death, a number of questions have been raised regarding the circumstances surrounding his death, and how the police department has handled the investigation. Pugh has said previously she wanted the FBI or Maryland State Police to take over the investigation.
Pugh said Suiter’s death and the resulting investigation didn’t play a role in her decision to relieve Davis of his duties, and instead pinned it solely on rising or stagnate crime numbers over the past year.
“My decision is because I’m impatient,” she said. “This was not done under a cloud. I’m looking to this department for new and creative ways to reduce violence. I’m asking for this department to be creative, to be focused.”
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in a statement that he supported Pugh’s decision to replace Davis.
“Darryl is a student of community policing and understands that the way forward will require a concerted reconciliation process to help repair trust between the department and the public at large,” Young said.
Since being sworn in as mayor in December 2016, Pugh has rolled out several crime reduction initiatives which have worked to varying degrees of success. She recently touted her violence reduction initiative, which places police officers in certain hot spots around the city where the most homicides occur. She, along with members of the business community, recently pushed to fundraise to bring the violence reduction program Roca to Baltimore.
She also recently announced that the Safe Streets anti-violence program would be moved under her Office of Criminal Justice, rather than the city’s health department.
Greater Baltimore Committee Donald C. Fry said in a statement the business advocacy group agrees with Pugh “that public safety, reducing violent crime and homicides, and restoring trust between the neighborhoods and Baltimore Police Department must be the city’s top priority.” He called the mayor’s selection of DeSousa “an excellent one.”