Turnover is common for Baltimore's top cop

Baltimore’s newly appointed police commissioner is the eighth person to hold the job since 2000.

Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Friday that she was replacing Kevin Davis with Darryl De Sousa as the city’s top cop, saying a change of leadership was necessary after last year ended with a record homicide rate.

Then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named Davis interim commissioner in July 2015, following the rioting and unrest in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray that led to his predecessor’s firing. He was given the permanent position in September 2015.

Davis’ short tenure is not uncommon in a city long plagued by violence.

“There is some tendency to treat crime the way we treat the economy,” said David Jaros, a criminal law professor at the University of Baltimore. “We give too much credit to politicians when the economy is doing well and too much blame when it is doing poorly. We immediately assume that when crime falls, it’s because we had a great commissioner, and when crime goes up, it’s because we had a bad one.”

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said the average tenure of a police chief in a major city is three to four years.

“The bigger the city, the shorter the tenure,” he said. “The stakes are higher in a big city.”

Government officials tend to want to make splashy changes at the top so they seem “proactive about a serious problem,” Jaros said.

As Baltimore struggles to get a handle on violent crime, Wexler said, the expectations for a police chief have never been higher.

“This is where policing is today,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, the conventional thinking was that no matter what police did, it wouldn’t have an impact on crime. Today, police are held to a standard that says they really can impact violent crime.

“You can’t fire the whole police department, but you can fire the chief.”

Here is the full list of Baltimore police commissioners:

· Charles Howard, 1850-1861

· Nicholas L.Wood, 1862-1864

· Samuel Hindes, 1864-1866

· James Young, 1866-1867

· LeFevre Jarrett, 1867-1870

· John W. Davis, 1870-1871

· William H.B. Fusselbaugh, 1871-1881

· George Colton, 1881-1887

· Edson M. Schryver, 1887-1897

· Daniel C. Heddinger, 1897-1900

· George M. Upsher, 1900-1904

· James H. Preston , 1904-1908 (Gov. Warfield made him a member of the Board of Police Commissioners for Baltimore City, 1904-08)

· George R. Willis, 1904-1908

· Sherlock Swann, 1908-1910

· John B.A. Wheltle, 1910-1912

· Morris A. Soper, 1912-1913

· James McEvoy, 1913-1914

· Daniel C. Ammidon, 1914-1916

· Lawrason Riggs, 1916-1920

· Charles D. Gaither, 1920-1937

· William Lawson, 1937-1938

· Robert F. Stanton, 1938-1943

· Hamilton R. Atkinson, 1943-1949

· Beverly Ober, 1949-1955

· James M. Hepbron, 1955-1961

· Bernard Schmidt, 1961-1966

· Donald Pomerleau, 1966-1981

· Frank Battaglia, 1981-1984

· Bishop Robinson, 1984-1987

· Edward J. Tilghman, 1987-1989

· Edward V. Woods, 1989-1993

· Thomas C. Frazier, 1994-1999

· Ronald L.Daniel, 2000

· Edward Norris, 2000-2002

· Kevin Clark, 2003-2004

· Leonard Hamm, 2004-2007

· Frederick Bealefeld III, 2007-2012

· Anthony W. Batts 2012-2015

· Kevin Davis 2015-2018

· Darryl D. De Sousa 2018-

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

trichman@baltsun.com

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