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BALTIMORE (AP) — 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.”

The firing comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out in riots following the death of Freddie Gray, who died in April of injuries he received in police custody. Six police officers have been criminally charged in Gray’s death.

After the unrest, arrests in the city plummeted and homicides spiked. Baltimore’s homicide total this year is 155, 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.

Police said Wednesday that the shooting wasn’t random, but no arrests have been made.

“As we have seen in recent weeks, too many continue to die on our streets,” Rawlings-Blake said. Referring to Batts, she said “recent events proved that his being here was a distraction.”

“We cannot continue to debate the leadership of the department,” the mayor said. “We cannot continue to have the level of violence we’ve seen in recent weeks in this city.”

Batts and Rawlings-Blake are African-American, as is the city’s top prosecutor, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Davis is white. Sixty percent of the city’s population is black, while the police department is 48 percent African-American.

Mosby said her office has already met with Davis and she looks forward to working with him.

The Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr., president of the city’s Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said the firing was long overdue. Gwynn, who began calling for Batts’ resignation within days of Gray’s death, blamed the bloody spike in violence on the mayor’s previous reluctance to fire the commissioner.

“We have people who died because they delayed,” he said Wednesday.

Keonna Stokes, 22, a resident of the housing development in front of which Gray was arrested, said she was glad to see Batts removed from his position, and hopes a new commissioner will have a lower tolerance for police misconduct.

“The police wouldn’t do the things they do if the commissioner didn’t allow it,” she said. “He should have been fired. We call the police when we really need them, when people hurt us. But now we don’t call them, because they hurt us. If they didn’t Freddie would still be here.”

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights review of the department, and on Tuesday, Batts announced that an outside organization will review the police response to the civil unrest that followed Gray’s death. Most of the unrest took place on April 27, prompted by Gray’s death on April 19.

The Baltimore police union released its own scathing post-mortem report Tuesday accusing Batts and other top brass of instructing officers not to engage with rioters and to allow looting and destruction to occur.

“The officers repeatedly expressed concern that the passive response of the Baltimore police commanders to the civil unrest allowed the disorder to grow into full-scale rioting,” Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, wrote in the report.

Following Batts’ firing Wednesday, the union issued a statement reiterating the report’s concerns but also said it would work with Davis to improve the situation.

Davis was previously chief of police in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and assistant chief in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The mayor said that in addition to reducing crime, Davis would “bring accountability to police, hold officers who act out of line accountable for their actions.”

Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for Maryland, praised Davis, saying he helped reform the Prince George’s County Police Department, “raising morale and professionalism while dramatically reducing crime.”

In his own remarks to the news conference, Davis said his goals would include improving the relationship with the officers who work for him. “I will walk with them and serve with them and be with them every step of the way,” he said.

But Davis also has indicated a willingness in the past to speak out against police abuses.

As Anne Arundel chief, he issued a news release disagreeing with a decision by the county Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70 to donate $1,070 to a defense fund for Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson, who is white, fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, on Aug. 9.

Rawlings-Blake appointed Batts as police commissioner in September 2012.

His contract with the city paid him $190,000 and was to run through June 2020. It includes a provision for a severance payment equal to his annual salary if he is terminated without cause.

Hours after he was fired, Batts sent a short statement to the Baltimore Sun.

“I’ve been honored to serve the citizens and residents of Baltimore,” he said. “I’ve been proud to be a police officer for this city.”

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11 thoughts on “Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts Fired

  1. To bad Stephanie Rawlings Blake can’t be fired as easily as Anthony Batts was. Her give them room to destroy comment was an open invitiation to the lawless to do what they did. She threw Anthony Batts under the bus in an attempt to divert attention away from her lack of leadership. I hope the citizens of Baltimore remember this when it’s time to vote for a new mayor. Hopeful by the time she comes up for re-election I will no longer be a resident of Baltimore City.

  2. He said bye bye with a wink and a nod! I wonder what was in that severance package . . .he is moving on to another police district as we type. It is all a hustle, I forgot his name already!

  3. Well, what in the hell did they think was going to happen? After you strip them of power, throw em’ under the bus, run em’ over, back up and run em’ over again, ride em’ hard and hang em’ up wet? Then, you want to send them back into the same neighborhood where they had bottles and rocks thrown at em’, to get the same thugs that were throwing bottles and rocks at them under control, without drawing a weapon or putting thier hands on them, because they could wind up losing their jobs or under arrest. Now, everybody is trying to cover their asses. Now the lunatics are running the asylum. And I don’t care who you put in charge, it won’t matter as long as your police force has no power when they hit those streets. Period.

  4. specialt757 on said:

    If since he’s been the Commissioner and crimes have increased at an alarming rate, then there is no choice but to fire him, race notwithstanding. He could be poka dot and it wouldn’t make a difference. I only referenced race because it’s mentioned here “Batts and Rawlings-Blake are African-American, as is the city’s top prosecutor, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Davis is white.” But new “intelligence and innovative” leadership is needed. We have the resources we just need the right minds.
    We live in a technology savvy world now, it stands to reason that new innovations and technologies should play a major role on stopping and solving crimes. But as long as the community is poor, there will always be a high crime rate.
    Maybe the focus should be on bringing new businesses/industry into the area and NOT Walmart. Use innovative resources that work within the miniscule public school budget and provide our youth with more opportunities, keep their little minds busy, because an idle mind is the devils playground/workshop.

  5. really on said:

    That City is pitiful, like living in Sodom and Gomorrah. They need strong leadership maybe someone like the principal from lean on me….the hoodlum and thieves are running rampant because they don’t have Any respect for themselves or the community…get stronger leadership that don’t take this mess. Stand up people these fools are terrorizing you….no fair to hard working people….don’t let the thugs win…why are there so much ignorance going on in that city… anyone able to be strong enough to day what it is and do something about it…in this day and age this is pitiful.

  6. Linda on said:

    The Baltimore PC should have been forced to RESIGN after the riots based on the way the incident was handled!!!!–GOOD RIDDANCE!

    Just because Batts is a man of color does not mean that he had his peoples interest at heart.
    He was not one of them-he was a POS PIG!

    One would think that a man or color who also grew up in the ghetto, knew the relationship between cops and civilians and that the rapport was not good.

    You would think that once Batts became a ranking law enforcement office that he would implement change and attempt to build a trust between PIGS and the community they serve.

    Batts did no such thing-but allowed the situation to remain status quo.

  7. The Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr., president of the city’s Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said “We have people who died because they delayed,” he said Wednesday.

    With all due respect to Reverand Gwynn Sr., people are dying because immature young moms like Ms. Toya Graham irresponsibly build small or large families without first acquiring the skills, means and PATIENCE required to provide for their children’s emotional well being.

    Has anyone asked Ms. Graham’s son if he resents his mom for introducing him to a life of hardship and struggle?

    Has anyone asked Michael if he would have been happier if his mom built a family with fewer mouths to feed, clothe and supervise?

    #RestorePrideInParenting #EndChildAbuseNeglect

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