The mayor of Baltimore on Wednesday fired the city’s police commissioner following criticism of his handling of rioting triggered by the death of a black man in police custody, as well as a subsequent surge in homicides.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thanked Police Commissioner Anthony Batts for his service — and praised the job he had done — but said growing criticism of his performance had become a "distraction'' that was preventing the city from moving ahead.
"We need a change,'' the mayor said at a news conference. "This was not an easy decision but it is one that is in the best interest of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better, and we're going to get better.''
Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who has been with the department only since January, will serve as interim commissioner, Rawlings-Blake said.
Batts' firing came 2-1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of Freddie Gray, who died in April of injuries he received while in police custody. Six police officers have been criminally charged in Gray's death.
After the violence, arrests in the city plummeted and homicides spiked.
On Tuesday, Baltimore's police union alleged in a report that Batts and the mayor had failed to give rank-and-file officers the training, equipment and support needed to confront rioters.
The report from the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 also said officers were told not to wear protective gear, and to request permission from the department's legal section before making arrests.
The union represents approximately 2,500 officers in the Baltimore Police Department. Its report echoed the sentiments of many local civic and religious groups that had called for a change in leadership.
Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday denied that Batts' dismissal was connected with the union allegations.
Some information for this report came from AP.