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Baltimore mayor ousts police commissioner, saying violence isn’t being curbed fast enough

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A seal of the Baltimore Police Department is seen at Police Headquarters in Baltimore on August 8, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s mayor on Friday ousted city Police Commissioner Kevin Davis in favor of one of his deputies, saying the city wasn’t reducing violence fast enough amid a soaring homicide rate.

Mayor Catherine Pugh elevated Deputy Commissioner Darryl D. DeSousa, saying she’d tried to work hand-in-hand with Davis during her 13 months in office but needed to see more progress.

DeSousa said one of his first initiatives — already underway Friday — is to put more uniformed officers on the streets and to place them in “strategic locations,” such as areas near “problematic businesses.”

His promotion comes after Baltimore tallied more than 340 homicides in 2017 — the highest yearly number on record there in more than two decades.

“I’m impatient,” Pugh said in a news conference Friday morning. “We need violence reduction. We need violence (numbers) to go down.”

“This commissioner (Davis) worked hard, but I’m looking for new … ways to change what we’re seeing here every day,” she said. “I need my police department to give me creative ideas.”

The firing of Davis, who was promoted from deputy to commissioner in 2015 amid a public uproar over the death in police custody of city resident Freddie Gray, shakes up a department that has seen its share of recent challenges.

That includes the homicide rate, as well as a 2016 Justice Department report that found Baltimore police had long engaged in racial bias against African-Americans. Further, criminal charges were filed against several officers accused of filing false affidavits and stopping people to seize their money.

New commissioner: We’re coming for ‘the trigger-pullers’

DeSousa, 53, has served in every rank with Baltimore police since he started there in 1988, he said, and has been Davis’ deputy commissioner for the patrol bureau since August 2015.

Details about his plan to deploy more uniformed officers weren’t immediately clear. But he said his main priorities were to reduce violence and crack down on violent, repeat offenders.

“I have a real strong message for the trigger-pullers: We’re coming after them,” DeSousa said. “It’s going to be (an) accelerated pace. The district commanders in all nine districts know who they are. And we’re coming after them.”