More changes are taking place in Baltimore, home to one of the more rapidly rising crime rates in the country. The mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has been under continuous pressure to get something done to address all the problems in the streets and it seems like she’s stumbled upon an idea. She fired her police commissioner, Anthony Batts.
Baltimore’s mayor fired the troubled city’s police commissioner Wednesday, saying that a recent spike in homicides in the weeks after an unarmed black man died of injuries in police custody required a change in leadership.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thanked Police Commissioner Anthony Batts for his service — and praised the job he had done — but said growing criticism of his performance had become a “distraction” that was preventing the city from moving ahead.
Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who has only been with the department since January, will serve as interim commissioner, Rawlings-Blake said.
“We need a change,” the mayor told a news conference, which was attended by Davis. “This was not an easy decision but it is one that is in the best interest of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better and we’re going to get better.”
Keep in mind that this mayor is the same person who was named the president of a prominent, national mayors’ association because of her outstanding abilities and success in running the city of Baltimore. So why did Batts get the heave ho? The action came on the heels of a separate report from the police union which analyzed the aftermath of the riots and the police response. The cops were upset because they had been ordered to not engage the rioters in small groups, to “hold their lines” when the violence was breaking out, to not wear such “intimidating” uniforms and to generally project the right image. These complaints were ostensibly part of the reason why Rawlings-Blake fired Batts, but was he the villain or the goat? Check out what Gene Ryan of the FOP was actually saying.
Ryan had stopped short of saying the union did not support Batts. He said officers wanted to see Batts “step up,” not step down.
The union commissioned the report after officers complained about commands given during the riots.
City Councilman Brandon Scott said it was clear that police were “ill-equipped and ill-prepared,” and the union was was right to put pressure on commanders.
The cops definitely had their share of complaints about Batts as well, but that doesn’t seem to tell the whole story. Mostly the review (and the coverage on cable news today) focused on all of the general marching orders which “came down from the top” during the riots. Given how heavily the mayor had been involved since day one, do you really think that those unusual orders were dreamed up by Batts alone? Or is it more likely that he was building a deployment strategy in accordance with the orders he was getting from the Mayor’s office? There’s more than a little history to draw on which supports the idea that Rawlings-Blake was looking for a scapegoat here.
Batts, as you may recall, was the leader who upset everyone by having the audacity to actually meet with the accused officers and assure them that he would ensure they had a fair hearing and that the facts, not emotion, will determine the outcome of this case. He further angered many residents and members of City Hall when he stepped out in front of the press and described the woman who smacked down her rioting son as the Mother of the Year.
With an attitude like that it’s no wonder that Batts was in the cross-hairs of plenty of people in Baltimore. The Ministerial Alliance, which has been on the side of the crowds in the streets and against the police from the beginning, has been calling for Batts to be removed since the very beginning of the riots, and given their influence with the protesters, it’s not shocking that Rawlings-Blake would want to give him up to calm the crowds.
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has managed to appease the masses once again and dumped someone who was out there on the front lines during the riots trying to stop the city from burning to the ground. She’s also earning some media points for “taking decisive action” and “addressing the problems.” Batts paid the price for that, but you still have to wonder if the change in personnel shouldn’t have happened a couple of rungs further up the ladder of command. I mean, things are just going so well in Baltimore to this day, aren’t they?
Baltimore’s homicide total this year is 156, according to police. That’s a 48 percent increase compared with the same time last year. Shootings have increased 86 percent. In one of the latest examples, gunmen jumped out of two vans and fired at a group of people a few blocks from an urban university campus Tuesday night, killing three people.
But I’m sure that with Batts gone that should start turning around any day now. Oh, and just by the way, the interim replacement for Batts is a white guy. Let’s see how well that works out.