Baltimore police commissioner Anthony W. Batts was fired Wednesday. The termination of Batts by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake comes amid the release of a highly critical report by the police union and a spike in violent crime.
The mayor acted just hours after the police union issued a report critical of the department’s response to the unrest set off by the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.
The mayor called Batts’ presence a “distraction” and said Baltimore needs to focus on lowering the amount of homicides taking place in the city. “We cannot keep having the level of violence in our city,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We cannot grow Baltimore without making our city a safer place to live. We need a change.”
In the weeks since May 1, when six officers were charged in Mr. Gray’s death, murders have risen to a level not seen in decades. There have been 155 homicides this year, 50 more than in the same period last year, and nonfatal shootings have nearly doubled, the police said.
Batts was not only unpopular with rank and file officers, but also with the surrounding Baltimore community. Many were unhappy with his handling of the riots following Freddie Gray’s death, his inability to curb the continued unrest, and the lack of police accessibility to the community.
Batts was under attack on multiple fronts amid the disclosure that some police stations have been closed to the public after 7 p.m. and news that three people were shot to death Tuesday night near the University of Maryland’s downtown campus.
Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis been named as the intern commissioner, effective immediately.[New York Times] [Baltimore Sun] [Associated Press] [Image via Patrick Semansky/Associated Press]