Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—On the job early. Baltimore’s new police commissioner started work Tuesday — two days earlier than expected. And he comes as another member of the top brass in the department announces he’s leaving.
Derek Valcourt has more on the changes and what it means for Baltimore police.
New police commissioner Anthony Batts wasn’t supposed to start until Thursday. But since he’s new to town, he’s trying to get a jump start on learning the ins and outs of the department and problems in the city.
Batts hit headquarters early Tuesday, as he embarks on a massive Baltimore learning curve.
“He wants to soak up the BPD. He wants to learn the current issues, wants to meet the command staff and really jump in head first with some of the issues we are contending with right now,” said Anthony Guglielmi, police spokesman.
One issue on his plate is the loss of Dep. Commissioner of Operations Anthony Barksdale, who temporarily led the department after police commissioner Fred Bealefeld retired this summer.
Barksdale lost his bid to permanently become top cop. And now will take indefinite leave due to an undisclosed medical condition.
“I’m excited that Commissioner Batts’ first day is today. He’s hitting the ground running,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “We have a great team. Barksdale was certainly a part of that great team, but we have a great senior command that’s going to make sure we continue to focus on our most violent offenders, get new guns off the street and create new partnerships so that we can dramatically reduce violent crime in the city.”
Barksdale’s departure follows the planned retirement of Col. Jesse Oden, leaving two of the four top spots in the department unfilled.
“That does concern me,” said Jack Young, City Council President.
Young says he’s vowed to support the new commissioner and hopes the command staff replacements know Baltimore.
“They need to look at somebody inside the system, that knows the system that can keep this momentum going,” Young said.
“This is not a time to panic,” said Bob Cherry, FOP president.
The police union president says despite new changes the rank and file officers will police on.
“We manage transitions and we manage the crime fight no matter who’s at the top. The guys that are getting the job done are the guys who are on the street right now,” Cherry said.
The new commissioner isn’t wasting any time making changes. He’s already hired a new chief of staff, a position that did not exist under Commissioner Bealefeld.
He’s also adding new deployments of foot patrol officers in areas that have seen recent spikes in violence.
Though the new commissioner is already on the job, he still faces a confirmation hearing by the City Council.