BALTIMORE (AP) — Following a record year in homicides, the head of Baltimore’s police department was fired Friday and the mayor said a change was needed to reduce crime more quickly.
Deputy Commissioner Darryl DeSousa will take Commissioner Kevin Davis’ place immediately, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office announced in a news release.
The appointment of DeSousa, a 30-year veteran of the force, will be made permanent following “appropriate approvals,” the release said.
“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,” Pugh said in the release. “As such, I have concluded that a change in leadership is needed at police headquarters.”
Violent crime rates in Baltimore have been notoriously high for decades and the city has recently been dealing with increasing homicides. Baltimore ended 2017 with 343 killings, bringing the annual homicide rate to its highest ever – roughly 56 killings per 100,000 people. Baltimore, which has shrunk over decades, currently has about 615,000 inhabitants.
DeSousa, a 53-year-old city resident who joined the department in 1988, said he was honored by the mayor’s confidence in him “at this critical time” for the city.
“Baltimore has long been my home and I’ve spent my career on its streets and in its neighborhoods to address problems and bring about solutions that are meaningful for the people we serve,” he said in the mayor’s news release.
DeSousa has served in a variety of roles over the years and in 2017 was assigned to lead the patrol bureau, the largest in the department.
City Council President C. “Jack” Young said in a statement that he stands behind the mayor’s decision and believes DeSousa’s appointment “will be greeted warmly throughout the police department and the City of Baltimore.”
Davis was sworn in as commissioner in October 2015 after serving on an interim basis for several months. He replaced Anthony Batts, who was fired after homicides spiked following the death of Freddie Gray, a black man whose fatal spinal cord injury in police custody triggered massive protests that year and the city’s worst riots in decades.
Prior to 2015, Baltimore’s killings had generally been on the decline.
In her statement, Pugh — who took office as mayor in December 2016 and has pledged to reduce crime, boost police recruits, and improve long-neglected neighborhoods — thanked Davis for his leadership.
“I am grateful to Commissioner Davis for all that he has done to implement the initiatives underway to address violent crime at it root causes,” she said.
A news conference was scheduled for later Friday morning.