Following the release of a scathing report, Baltimore’s Police Commissioner Anthony Batts is now jobless. Among other issues, the report alleges police officers were ordered not to engage protestors.
According to The Guardian:
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said on Wednesday afternoon that she had decided to replace Batts, who has led the police department for almost three years. Deputy commissioner Kevin Davis is to take over as interim commissioner, she said.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Rawlings-Blake said she made the decision in an attempt to reverse a “crime surge” being suffered by the city. “Families are tired of feeling this pain, and so am I,” she said.
“We need a change,” said the mayor. “This was not an easy decision, but it is one that is in the best interests of the people of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better.”
Batts, 54, had been under increasing pressure to tackle a spike in violent crime. So far in 2015 the city has sustained a 48% rise in homicides and 86% rise in shootings compared with the same period last year.
The mayor’s statement came just hours after a sharply critical police union report that lambasted Batts’s management of the department during riots and protests that broke out in the city following the death of Freddie Gray in April.
The Huffington Post explained further:
Some officers didn’t know who they were reporting to during the riots, according to a report released Wednesday by the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. The report also found that instructions to officers were unclear and that officers had “little to no training in riot/civil unrest situations.”
The union “received many reports from members who were deployed to the defensive efforts, stating that they lacked basic riot equipment, training, and, as events unfolded, direction from leadership,” according to the report. “The officers repeatedly expressed concern that the passive response to the civil unrest had allowed the disorder to grow into full scale rioting.”
The union said it released its “after action review,” which recommends giving on-the-scene commanders more latitude to make arrests, because Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts had taken no action to do the same.
Mayoral spokesman Kevin Harris sharply criticized the union in an emailed statement, saying an extensive review of the city’s response is underway.
“Our hope was that this report would shed some additional light on how we can better prepare our officers should there be future unrest,” he said. “Instead this report is no more than a trumped up political document full of baseless accusations, finger pointing and personal attacks.”
The report released earlier Wednesday included damning allegations that if true, make the commissioner’s firing understandable.
Baltimore police officers were ordered by their commissioner to allow rioters the space to destroy and loot property during a spate of unrest in the city following the death in custody of 25 year-old Freddie Gray in April, according to a partisan review by the city’s powerful police union.
On Wednesday, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Three published its scathing assessment (pdf) of police and city management during the unrest, which left 19 buildings and 144 vehicles burned, concluding the rioting was “without question, preventable” and argued police commanders “failed to meet professional standards on all levels”.
“As a result, chaos and lawlessness ensued,” the report states.
One account claimed Batts “led them to the slaughter.”
One officer's account from the FOP report: pic.twitter.com/YnQrS6vAuo
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) July 8, 2015
The report can be read in its entirety here.
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