BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has fired Commissioner Kevin Davis as head of the city’s police force, she announced Friday morning.
Deputy Commissioner Darryl D. DeSousa, 53, will replace Commissioner Kevin Davis, becoming the department’s 40th commissioner.
Following appropriate approvals, his appointment as Commissioner will be made permanent, the mayor says.
“As I have made clear, reducing violence and restoring the confidence of our citizens in their police officers is my highest priority,” Mayor Pugh said in a statement.
Deadly violent crime has been on the rise in Baltimore since Freddie Gray’s 2015 death. There were 211 homicides in 2014, compared with 342 in 2015, 318 in 2016 and 343 in 2017.
“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 nearly a record year for homicides in the City of Baltimore,” Pugh continued in her statement.
WHY FIRE DAVIS NOW?
“I’m impatient,” Pugh said. “We need violence reduction, we need the numbers to go down faster than they are… I believe that Commissioner DeSousa understands how important this is and how impatient I am and will now take the helm of the Baltimore Police Department.”
“I’m looking for new and creative innovative ways to change what we’re seeing here every day,” Pugh went on to say.
Davis had a five-year contract that ran through 2020, and is expected to get a $150,000 payout.
Then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named Davis interim commissioner in July 2015, following the unrest in Baltimore sparked by Freddie Gray’s death.
His official appointment came a few months later, in September 2015.
Anthony Batts led the department before Davis, starting in the fall of 2012.
According to our media partners at The Baltimore Sun, DeSousa is the eighth person to hold the job of Baltimore’s top cop since 2000.
WHO IS DARRYL DeSOUSA?
Commissioner-Designate DeSousa is a New York City native who moved to Baltimore in 1983 and went to Morgan State University.
DeSousa deferred completion of his degree at Morgan State in order to join the department in 1988, but eventually received his degree in Applied Liberal Arts in 1997.
“I’m proud to say that I went through every single rank in the Baltimore City Police Department,” DeSousa said at the Friday morning press conference.
DeSousa is a Baltimore resident and the father of two grown children.
WHAT IS DeSOUSA’S PLAN?
Pugh and DeSousa both elaborated on the planned violence reduction efforts at Friday’s press conference. (You can watch the press conference in full below.)
“The priority as of this moment right now is really simple… violent reduction,” DeSousa said. “At an accelerated pace.”
“Secondly, my plan is to immediately put more uniformed police officers on the streets… I have a real strong message for the trigger pullers, that we’re coming after them. It’s going to be accelerated pace, the district commanders in all nine districts know who they are, and we’re coming after them. And I want to let everybody know it’s going to be done in a constitutional manner.”
DeSousa said a new violence-reduction initiative began this morning at 9 a.m., though he had few specifics, other than saying uniformed officers have been placed in strategic locations throughout the city.
“Everyone that knows me knows that… I’m a chess player and I don’t like to be outwitted,” he said.
“I stand firmly behind Mayor Pugh’s decision to appoint 30-year veteran Darryl DeSousa as Baltimore’s Police Commissioner-Designate,” City Council President Jack Young said in a statement.
“I have known Darryl for a very long time, and I believe his appointment will be greeted warmly throughout the police department and the City of Baltimore. 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.”
Councilman Brandon Scott also expressed support for the mayor’s decision to appoint DeSousa, saying DeSousa was actually the person he wanted in the position when Batts was fired.
“I, for one, am very pleased with the choice that [Pugh] made,” Councilman Scott said.
Former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Ed Norris also weighed in.
“When things go bad, and they usually do — it’s a short-lived job, police commissioner in this town — they’re always the ones people point to and they’re always the ones that suffer the brunt of the anger,” Norris said. “I just think Kevin Davis inherited a bad hand. He took over right after the riots, the department was kind of demoralized…when I saw the violence last year I just knew this was going to happen.”
Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police also put out a statement saying they are supportive of DeSousa’s appointment, calling this is a crucial moment for the city.
“Commissioner Designee DeSousa has a long and valued career with the BPD and we are looking forward to continuing our mission with his very capable guidance,” the statement says. “For too long, our members have been working under extremely difficult circumstances, including mandatory 15-hour shifts, and their morale has suffered greatly.”
Davis found himself in the midst of record violence and high-profile murders in the city.
Among the victims of the killings was 43-year-old Jim Forrester, known as Reverend Jim. He stepped outside of work at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum in mid-December to speak to his wife on the phone when he was shot and killed.
“There’s a lack of thought about the fellow man in this town right now,” Baltimore Tattoo Museum owner Chris Keaton said.
Keaton said the case was solved quickly as he worked with a caring commissioner.
“Caring doesn’t make the stats change, but you know, it helped me and helped some of us feelings wise at least,” he said.
The response from residents has been mixed.
“Starting fresh is going to help Baltimore out because we’ll be able to see what’s being changed and what’s not being changed,” Jeffrey Meggingson said.
Others, however, say the issues throughout the city don’t start and end with the police commissioner.
“Changing commissioners is just one solution. But you got to get around in the city and deal with the people on a one-on-one basis,” Irvin Best said. “It’s going to take time, no matter who you put in there, to clean up the drugs, violence, a lot of shootings.”
Some say switching out the leadership is merely putting a band-aid on the real issues that need to be addressed.
“The commissioner inherited a mess,” community activist Ericka Alston-Buck said.
She says even with Davis out, the problems will remain the same unless Baltimore makes crucial changes.
“That takes mental health, that takes substance abuse, that takes jobs, that takes housing. If we can address those problems, we’d see the crime rate go down because then people will have hope, they can believe in the communities they live in,” Alston-Buck said.
In 2017, crime in the city was such a major concern, citizens started taking matters into their own hands. A group organized 72-hour ceasefires.
Erricka Bridgeford is one of the faces behind the movement.
“The systems need to be shaken up. I’m not sure what one person can do about a whole system of the way we do policing in America,” Bridgeford said. “I’m hopeful that there’ll be more of a focus on really building trust in communities.”
A ceasefire in Baltimore has been organized for Feb. 2-4. For more information on the city’s ceasefire, click here.