BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison says he’s not distracted by the scandal involving Mayor Catherine Pugh as he continues work to reform the department.
“It has not impacted me at all, and yes, I feel like I have the full support of the mayor ex-officio and from every member of the city council, Harrison said. “I’m confident I have their support as well as the support of the citizens. I am unaffected by it, and I am laser-focused on doing the job I was hired to do.“
Pugh remains on leave recovering from pneumonia as she faces multiple investigations into the sales of her Healthy Holly book.
Commissioner Harrison is also putting his stamp on the department by downsizing command staff—reducing the number of lieutenants colonels and colonels.
“It makes us more efficient,” he said. “There are fewer people now at the top and the people in those positions know exactly who their subordinates are.”
Harrison has yet to hire a deputy commissioner to head the new public integrity bureau, which will oversee anti-corruption efforts.
“I want that person to be the voice of my voice, and I do not want to have anyone outside override that person‘s decision when it comes to internal affairs and internal investigations.“
The commissioner has also been dealing with a recent spike in violence. He says while there are “ups and downs,” he’s focused on targeting violent offenders.
“We’re going to have reform not just because it’s court mandated but because we really want to do it,“ he said.
The police union recently accused city leaders of being soft on crime.
In West Baltimore, a woman who lives on a block where a 42-year-old man was killed last week says she graded the commissioner with an “e for effort” but lamented the constant drug dealing in her neighborhood.
“It’s very concerning. I live here. My daughter lives here. It’s sad that we don’t even want to come outside,“ said the woman, who asked WJZ to conceal her identity out of fear.
Commissioner Harrison said the “competition that drives money and drives violence over the drug trade must be addressed.”
However, he says the situation isn’t hopeless. “I left New Orleans and came all the way here because I thought there was hope. It will take time, but there’s always hope,”