The Baltimore mayor fired embattled Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts on Wednesday, citing an “utmost urgency” to stop a recent surge in violence in the troubled city.
“We cannot grow Baltimore without making our city a safer place to live,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a press conference at City Hall. “We need a change. This was not an easy decision, but it is one that is in the best interest of the people of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better.”
Rawlings-Blake named Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis interim commissioner, effective immediately.
Oddly enough, the firing comes only hours after she “lashed out” at the Baltimore police union for issuing a scathing report of Baltimore Police Department leadership during the Freddie Gray riots.
In the report, the union accused Batts of “caring more about appearances than protecting the city’s cops.”
One officer complained he felt like Batts “led us officers to slaughter.”
One officer’s account from the FOP report: pic.twitter.com/YnQrS6vAuo
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) July 8, 2015
Rawlings didn’t respond to a coalition of faith leaders who called for Batts to step down following the release of the Fraternal Order of Police report. She now claims that the police union did not play a role in her decision to replace Batts.
Rawlings-Blake commended Batts for his service, citing improvements in transparency and accountability.
“Over the past three years, Commissioner Batts has served our city with distinction,” she said.
But she said new leadership was needed to stem a recent surge of violence, including the deaths of three people in a quadruple shooting near the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Tuesday night.
The city’s homicide rate spiked soon after riots overtook much of West Baltimore on April 27. The city recorded 42 homicides in May, the deadliest month in 25 years. There have been 31 homicides in the past month.
Rawlings-Blake drew criticism herself when she said that she gave rioters “space to destroy” after a weekend of violent rioting.
“It was a very delicate balancing act because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on — um — we also gave those who wished to destroy, space to do that, as well,” she said.
She later walked back her remarks, accusing critics of mischaracterizing her words.
“I was asked a question about the property damage that was done, and in answering that question I made it very clear that we balance a very line between giving protesters — peaceful protesters — space to protest. What I said is, in doing so, people can hijack that and use that space for bad. I did not say that we were accepting of it, I did not say that we were passive to it, I was just explaining how property damage can happen during a peaceful protest. It is very unfortunate that members of your industry decided to mischaracterize my words and try to use it in a way to say we were inciting violence. There’s no such thing,” she said.
Be sure to read Jack Dunphy’s: