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The Journal Gazette

  • De Sousa

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 1:00 am

Checkmate for Baltimore's latest police chief

Associated Press

BALTIMORE – When Baltimore's mayor hand-picked Darryl De Sousa as her choice for police commissioner, heralding his experience and the respect he commanded in the city's force, he proudly described himself as a chess player who uses strategic thinking to avoid pitfalls.

Now just a few months later, De Sousa is out of the game, resigning in embarrassment for failing to file his taxes.

De Sousa's path from the corner office to the revolving door was speedy, even for a city accustomed to leadership instability in a scandal-plagued police force. De Sousa resigned Tuesday, less than four months into the job, after being charged with failing to file three years of taxes.

Tuesday also was the deadline federal prosecutors gave the city for producing years of De Sousa's financial records.

Rising through the Baltimore force's ranks since the 1980s, De Sousa was the third commissioner in three years and the ninth since 2000. His downfall was a blow to Mayor Catherine Pugh and the City Council, which nearly unanimously authorized his promotion in February.

“Law enforcement needs to follow the law. It is critically important that the citizens of Baltimore have complete faith in their police department,” City Councilman Zeke Cohen said.

Pugh had portrayed her choice of the veteran police commander as the right person to lead the force as the violent crime rate continued to soar. She said his resignation shouldn't derail the department's recent successes, and she's already begun a national search to find his successor.

“I want to reassure all Baltimoreans that this development in no way alters our strategic efforts to reduce crime by addressing its root causes in our most neglected neighborhoods,” said Pugh, who fired De Sousa's predecessor, Kevin Davis, in January after roughly 2 years on the job.

Another headline-making embarrassment couldn't come at a worse time.

The mid-Atlantic city of 615,000 inhabitants ended 2017 with 343 killings, bringing the annual homicide rate to its highest ever: roughly 56 killings per 100,000 people. In contrast, much larger New York City had 290 homicides last year: fewer than four per 100,000.

Baltimore's feverish rate of killings has cooled somewhat so far this year. Pugh has credited De Sousa's strategies and on Tuesday said “a broad-based, grassroots approach – underpinned by the utilization of new crime-fighting technology – is working and will continue to be effective.”