Baltimore police commissioner fired by city's mayor after year of record violence

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh fired police commissioner Kevin Davis today, citing the city’s high rate of violent crime. The Mayor named deputy commissioner Daryl DeSousa as his replacement. The Baltimore Sun reports there was confusion Friday morning as other members of the top brass were also cut off from police headquarters:

On Friday morning, the department’s other two deputy commissioners, Dean Palmere and Jason Johnson, had their access to police headquarters cut off, according to sources — signaling a larger purge of top commanders who were put in key leadership roles by Davis.

The sources said confusion was rampant on Friday within the department, as other commanders had their access to the building, and to their computers and cellphones, cut off as well.

Police Commissioner Davis had a contract that lasted through 2020, but Baltimore came very close to setting an all-time record for the number of murders in the city in 2017. The city ended the year with 343 murders. The record high was 344 murders. However, last year did set the per capita record for murders because the number of people living in Baltimore has declined. Those grim milestones were obviously the main motivating factor behind today’s firing.

“As I have made clear, reducing violence and restoring the confidence of our citizens in their police officers is my highest priority,” Pugh said in a statement. “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.”…

DeSousa, at a morning news conference with Pugh, said he “has a lot of respect” for Davis and wishes him well. He also said he knows city residents are “frustrated and they want answers and they want change, and it’s going to happen.”

He said a new initiative, in the works for weeks, began Friday morning to send a “surplus of officers” in waves to target hot spots, major traffic corridors and “violent repeat offenders” in order to drive down violence

“I have a real strong message for the trigger-pullers, and it’s we’re coming after them,” he said. “It’s going to be at an accelerated pace.”

At the end of last year, I highlighted some comments by Rev. Kinji Scott, a Baltimore pastor who blamed progressives, activists and liberal journalists for causing the police to back off in the city since the death of Freddie Gray. Rev. Scott also suggested the Black Lives Matter movement had resulted in more distance, not less, between police and the communities they serve:

The primary thrust nationwide is what President Obama wanted to do: focus on building relationships with police departments and major cities where there had been a history of conflict. That hasn’t happened. We don’t see that. I don’t know a city — Baltimore for certain — we’ve not seen any changes in those relationships. What we have seen is that the police has distanced themselves, and the community has distanced themselves even further. So the divide has really intensified, it hasn’t decreased.

And of course we want to delineate the whole culture of bad policing that exists — nobody denies that — but as a result of this, we don’t see the level of policing we need in our community to keep the crime down in our cities that we are seeing bleed to death.

So now Baltimore has a new commissioner who is promising to get tough on violent crime starting, quite literally, today. In this clip below he says he has a new initiative that started Friday morning. But sending cops to deal with “trigger-pullers” is likely to result in some deadly confrontations with police. Unfortunately, it only takes one unclear shooting incident for the police to become villains in the media once again.