BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s police commissioner was charged Thursday with three misdemeanor counts of failure to file taxes, the latest embarrassment to rock a beleaguered force reeling from scandal to scandal.
The U.S. Attorney’s office alleged that Commissioner Darryl DeSousa “willfully failed to file a federal return for tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, despite having been a salaried employee of the Baltimore Police Department in each of those years.”
If the charges are proven, DeSousa faces up to one year in prison and a $25,000 fine for each of the three counts.
DeSousa issued a statement admitting his failure to file federal and state taxes for those three years, but portrayed it as an oversight. He said he filed his 2016 taxes and got an extension for 2017, and is now working with a “registered tax adviser.”
“While there is no excuse for my failure to fulfill my obligations as a citizen and public official, my only explanation is that I failed to sufficiently prioritize my personal affairs. Naturally, this is a source of embarrassment for me and I deeply regret any embarrassment it has caused the police department and the city of Baltimore,” he said.
By early evening, Mayor Catherine Pugh issued a brief statement saying DeSousa assured her that he’s working to resolve the matter and she has “full confidence” in him.
But the city’s police union president, Gene Ryan, said the commissioner should “do the right thing by taking a leave of absence” until the federal case is resolved.
Baltimore Councilman Ryan Dorsey, the sole council member to vote against confirming DeSousa in February, said he didn’t believe he had enough information to understand the full scope of the case, because some information remains under seal.
“I feel the most productive discussion we can have in the meantime is one that focuses on the importance of thorough vetting and thoughtful confirmation procedures for such important public positions,” Dorsey said.
Some prominent activists portrayed the federal case against DeSousa as a potent sign that Baltimore’s leaders don’t know what they are doing. DeSousa rose through the force to become commissioner following what Pugh described as a “complete” vetting process that included a review of shootings he was involved in 23 years ago.
“So the feds say he missed taxes for three years. Now, if you vet a person the first thing you do is check out their money, correct?” said Duane “Shorty” Davis.
DeSousa was touted as a change agent when Pugh picked him as commissioner, even though he joined the city’s force in 1988. He succeeded former Commissioner Kevin Davis, who spent 2½ years at the top job. At the time, Pugh said the leadership change was needed to oversee crime reduction strategies given the city’s eye-popping violent crime rate.
DeSousa pledged to stamp out police corruption following an explosive federal investigation that exposed a task force of dirty detectives, lowering moral and deepening a deficit in public trust.
The 53-year-old commander has since launched an anti-corruption unit and introduced plans for random integrity and polygraph testing. He also vowed to comply fully with a federal consent decree authorized in January 2017 after the U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report detailing longstanding patterns of racial profiling and excessive use of force against citizens.
The Justice Department began investigating the Baltimore police following the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who was fatally injured in the custody of officers, leading to massive protests and riots.
While U.S. Attorney Robert Hur commended the IRS and the FBI for their work in the ongoing federal investigation, some Maryland residents said they couldn’t quite believe the latest turn of events.
“He should be held accountable and he should be penalized,” said 49-year-old Phatteous Ward, a file clerk who commutes to his Baltimore job from Randallstown. “I think they need to fire everybody and start all over.”
Associated Press writer Courtney Columbus contributed from Baltimore.
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(Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)