Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Replaces Police Commissioner Kevin Davis

Mayor Catherine Pugh replaced police commissioner Kevin Davis on Friday, citing the need to get a handle on Baltimore’s record levels of violence.

Deputy Commissioner Darryl D. DeSousa, the top commander in the police department’s patrol bureau, will take Davis’ place, effectively immediately.

Pugh said his appointment will be eventually made permanent.

After 2017 ended with a historic 343 homicides, the mayor said she decided a change of police leadership was necessary.

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

Neither Davis nor DeSousa could immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Davis was first named interim commissioner by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in July 2015, after she fired his predecessor, Anthony Batts, amid a surge in violence following the rioting and unrest in the city that April. The unrest erupted after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody spurred widespread protests against police brutality.

The City Council confirmed Davis as the permanent commissioner in October 2015, with a five-year, $200,000 annual contract.

Under the contract, which was approved by the city’s Board of Estimates, Davis is eligible to receive 75 percent of one year’s salary – or $150,000 – if he is fired without cause.

The spike in violence that was in its early stages when Davis took the helm at the police department has not dropped off. The city, which had not seen more than 300 homicides since 1999, ended 2015 with 342. There were 318 in 2016, before 343 homicides, a per capita record in the city, occurred last year.

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SOURCE: Tribune News Service; The Baltimore Sun, Kevin Rector