Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday afternoon that she has replaced Anthony W. Batts as commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.
Effective immediately, deputy police commissioner Kevin Davis takes over as interim commissioner.
Introducing Davis at a City Hall press conference, Rawlings-Blake thanked Batts for his three years of service to Baltimore, praising his commitment to put more officers into high-crime areas in the city and bring accountability and transparency to the police department. However, she said, the ongoing debate over Batts' leadership in the aftermath of the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody had become "a distraction" in efforts to battle the recent surge in violence facing the city.
Rawlings-Blake noted that three people were murdered Tuesday in Baltimore and that another person had already been killed Wednesday prior to the press conference.
Just last September, with Rawlings-Blake's support and the unanimous approval of the City Council, Batts had signed a six-year contract extension.
Although homicide and crime numbers had dropped in recent years, the move to dismiss Batts doesn't come as a surprise given the ongoing bickering in the media between the mayor's office, the Fraternal Order of Police, and City Council. Front and center have been concerns of a police "slowdown" in the wake of indictments against six police officers involved in Gray's arrest and whether or not Batts had protected and stood by his uniformed officers during the protests, riots, public outcry, and subsequent charges brought by the city state's attorney's office.
There were 42 homicides in Baltimore in May, the deadliest month in more than two decades, and 29 more in June, bringing the total to 156 so far this year.
Outside City Hall after Rawlings-Blake's announcement, city councilman Brandon Scott said he supported the mayor's decision to fire Batts. Scott also praised the former police commissioner for his past work, as well as current police commanders and officers for reducing crime in the past three years, but said that Batts "had lost the locker room"—meaning the support of the rank and file—over the past eight weeks.
This announcement of the firing came after this morning's release of a 32-page report by the Fraternal Order of Police, which found that the rioting following the death of Freddie Gray was "preventable."
"By refusing to immediately release the radio transmissions and other command communications made during the riots, Commissioner Batts has missed an opportunity to regain the trust of the City as well as the rank and file police officers," FOP president Lt. Gene Ryan said in a statement after the report was released. "The bottom line is simply that our leadership—Commissioner Batts and State’s Attorney Mosby—has done nothing since the riots to investigate protocol shortcomings and better prepare our officers.”
Davis, the interim commissioner, was born and raised in College Park. He previously served as chief of police in Anne Arundel County and assistant police chief in Prince George's County. He is the son of a retired Prince George’s County police office and graduated from DeMatha High School before earning a degrees Towson University and Johns Hopkins University. Davis is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and FBI National Executive Institute, according to a bio posted Wednesday on the Baltimore Police Department's Facebook page.
Davis made only brief remarks after being introduced to the media by Rawlings-Blake. "It's all about the crime fight, and it's all about the relationships with our community," he said. Davis added that his only immediate message to the city's police officers is, "I will walk with them. I will serve with them and I will be with them every step of the way."