Historic levels of violence across Baltimore and a police department battered by scandal prompted Mayor Catherine Pugh to remove Kevin Davis as Baltimore’s police commissioner on Friday.

Pugh appointed department veteran Darryl DeSousa, the top commander in the department’s patrol bureau, to replace Davis.

Darryl DeSousa, Newly Appointed Baltimore City Police Commissioner

The move came after the city endured another record year of homicides, as well as a rash of violent street robberies and carjackings that only cemented the city’s reputation as a community beset by crime.   

At a City Hall press conference to announce Davis’ firing, Pugh expressed frustration with recent efforts to tackle crime.

“I’m impatient, we need violence reduction, we need the numbers to go down faster than they are,” Pugh said.

DeSousa is a native of Queens, N.Y. and a graduate of Morgan State University. He has served in a variety of capacities during his 30-year career with the department, including stints as the Northeast district commander and deputy commissioner. He promised immediate change in the force’s crime-fighting strategy, including the immediate launch of a plan to flood crime “hotspots” with extra officers.  

“My plan is to immediately put more uniformed officers on the streets,” DeSousa said.  

“Today we have an initiative that (officially) started about 30 minutes ago and is specifically designed to reduce violence,” he added, describing a roll-out of additional officers throughout the day Friday who would be situated in areas prone to violence.  

Looming over Davis’ ousting are lingering questions about the stalled investigation into the shooting death of Detective Sean Suiter, who was shot in the head in a West Baltimore alley in November.

Police initially said Suiter was the victim of a lone gunman, described as a Black male wearing a jacket with a white stripe. It was later revealed that Suiter was set to testify in front of a federal grand jury as part of a widening investigation into the Gun Trace Task Force, a rogue police unit accused of robbing residents, dealing drugs, and stealing overtime.

Asked if the case had any effect on her decision, Pugh was noncommittal.

“My decision is based upon the fact that we need to get these numbers down,” she said.

Initial reaction to the change from inside the department was positive. Sgt. Louis Hopson, who filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit against the department alleging discrimination against Black officers, said the move was a step in the right direction.  

“I think it’s an excellent move for a police department that has been reeling,” he told The AFRO. “Our hope is that he rights the ship.”

Hopson also serves on the board of the Vanguard Justice Society, an organization that represents Black police officers in Baltimore. He said he believes DeSousa will be able to mend the department’s fraught relationship with the community that has been the primary roadblock in reducing violence.   

“He’s very well respected,” Hopson said. “I think he truly understands the department and the people of Baltimore.”