Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, has fired the city’s police commissioner, Anthony Batts, more than two months after rioting occurred throughout the city following the death of Freddie Gray. Batts will be replaced by deputy commissioner Kevin Davis.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 8, 2015
Although the statement does not give a specific reason for Batts’ removal, the news comes on the same day The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) released its “After Action Review,” a 32-page document which argues the riots were “preventable,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
“Of those officers who were present, and with whom the After Action Review Committee spoke, each reported being given direct orders from Commissioner Batts and command staff members not to engage any protestors. Officers were ordered to allow the protestors room to destroy and allow the destruction of property so that the rioters would appear to be the aggressors,” the report said.
According to officers’ accounts, they were told ‘the Baltimore Police Department would not respond until they [the protestors] burned, looted, and destroyed the city so that it would show that the rioters were forcing our hand.’ The officers were told their primary job was to deescalate any situation with no response rather than to escalate with action. This was confirmed by officers from other jurisdictions who attended that roll call.
Rawlings-Blake even said during the riots: “We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
Taking questions at a press conference Wednesday, Rawlings-Blake was asked why she removed Batts after previously giving him her support. “The focus has been too much on the leadership of the department and not enough on the crime fight,” Rawlings-Blake answered.
It is with the utmost urgency that we get the crime surge under control. When the focus is repeatedly on the leadership, that’s attention that we’re all taking away the essential work that we all have to do together which is what we have to do with collective impact and unified resolve making our city safer.
Rawlings-Blake also brushed aside any notion that Batts’ removal from office was an attempt to pacify concerns from the FOP. “It happened on the same day, but I don’t think many who know me would suggest that I would do anything to placate the FOP,” she said.
The riots escalated to a point that an April baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox was played with the fans locked out. There have been 155 homicides since the riots ended–up 48 percent from last year–according to The Associated Press, which breaks down Batts’ career:
He started his career in 1982 as an officer with the Long Beach department, working his way up to chief over a 20-year span. He also served as city manager of Long Beach for four months and taught at California State University, Long Beach. He was chief in Oakland for two years, from 2009 to 2011.
Batts earned a doctorate in public administration from the University of La Verne, a master’s in business management from the University of Redlands, and a bachelor’s in law enforcement administration from California State University, Long Beach. He is a father of three children.
Gray died on April 12th after being arrested on drug charges. The six officers implicated have themselves been charged and are pleading with the state for a change of venue out of Baltimore.
Was Rawlings-Blake playing politics, or is she actually trying to help the city? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
BCN editor’s note: This article first appeared at Western Journalism.