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Baltimore's Police Commissioner Just Got Fired After a Surge Of Violence Followed Freddie Gray's Death

Anthony W. Batts has been let go by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
July 8, 2015, 10:00pm

Baltimore cops outside the Camden Yards baseball stadium. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday that she's replaced Anthony W. Batts as the troubled city's police commissioner less than three months after Freddie Gray suffered lethal injuries in local cops' custody.

Perhaps more relevant to his firing, Batts ran the show during the riots that followed Gray's death, as well as the wild spate of gun violence since.

In an afternoon press conference outside Baltimore's City Hall, Rawlings-Blake specifically cited the surge in violence as the impetus for giving Charm City's top cop the boot. Just last night, around 10:30 PM, three people died in an incident that may have involved three or four shooters and took place right outside of the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the Baltimore Sun reported.

"We cannot grow Baltimore without making our city a safer place to live," Rawlings-Blake said at the press conference. "We need a change. This was not an easy decision, but it is one that is in the best interest of the people of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better."

The firing came just a few hours after the local police union released a scathing critique of city and BPD leadership in the aftermath of Gray's death.

Gray, a 25-year-old with a history of lead paint poisoning, was loaded into the back of a Baltimore police van after making eye contact with an officer and running away. (Cops initially claimed he was in possession of an illegal knife, which was later disputed by city prosecutors.) By the time Gray was brought to the station, he was unconscious and suffering from a mostly-severed spinal cord. On April 19, he died, and allegations that Gray had been subjected to a so-called "rough-ride"—where cops deliberately drove in such a way as to inflict harm on their suspect—sparked riots in the city, as well as protests across the country.

Although leaked police documents obtained by the Washington Post were initially presented as evidence that Gray might have somehow injured himself in the van that day, that story quickly fell apart, and Mosby announced on May 1 that there was probable cause to charge six cops for his death. A grand jury agreed a few weeks later.

It's still not clear exactly why violence has spiked in Charm City, but there's no denying that this is more than a statistical blip. By late May, homicides in 2015 were up almost 40 percent compared to the same point a year earlier. One theory is that cops have been agitated by Mosby's enthusiasm for coming down hard on the officers allegedly responsible for Gray's death. On the other hand, it could be that all of the riots and protests have simply left beat cops feeling burned out.

Regardless, Batts—who made over $200,000 a year, according to the Sun—is out. For now, he's been replaced by Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

"Over the past three years, Commissioner Batts has served our city with distinction," Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday as she announced the man's termination.

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