New Baltimore city solicitor says police reform is his top priority

Andre Davis, the retired federal appeals judge who started as Baltimore’s city solicitor this month, said Wednesday that his priority is implementing the federal consent decree mandating changes at the Police Department.

“If in two or three years we haven’t reformed the Police Department, I think the people are going to blame the mayor, but it will be my failure,” Davis told reporters at a City Hall news conference.

The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation of Baltimore police after Freddie Gray died from a spine injury he received in a police van in April 2015.

Federal investigators found that Baltimore police routinely violated people’s constitutional rights, and the city agreed to fix the problems under the watch of a federal judge.

The next big step in the process is to select an independent monitor who will receive a multimillion-dollar contract to oversee the reforms. The Justice Department and the city have already asked for extra time to submit names of candidates to the judge enforcing the decree, and Davis said they might have to ask for yet more time.

City and Justice Department officials are working well together, Davis said, but a winning candidate hasn’t been selected.

Davis said he has written to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to offer his support.

“I assured him that I was going to work hand in glove with him to bring about the reforms we both want,” he said. “That’s my message, that we’re going to provide the assistance from a legal and policy perspective and implement that consent decree in a way we can all be proud of.”

Davis was a high-profile hire for Mayor Catherine Pugh. He was a widely respected judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and at one time appeared on track to be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Davis, 68, retired from the bench Aug. 31 and began his job for the city immediately. The Baltimore native was sworn in last week.

“I never imagined that I would leave the bench, honestly,” he said. “Thirty years and one month I was a judge, and it was frankly the mayor’s vision coupled with my love of the city and my feeling that I could really have an impact in the city.”

Pugh also introduced her new information technology director Wednesday. Frank Johnson was a salesman at computing firm Intel and pledged to modernize the city’s outdated systems.

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