But there were tense moments as well: Four residents asked about or referred to reports from a publication in Long Beach alleging that Batts had been involved in domestic-violence incidents there years earlier. He has not been charged with a crime.

Among those who raised the issue was Jean Allen, the president of the Edgewood Community Association, who said she had seen the accusations online. "Whether it's true or not, it's there," she said of the allegations being in the public realm. "We all want to know more about him."

Batts took questions only from council members, who did not raise the issue.

The Baltimore Sun has attempted to verify the report, reaching several people named in the article or by its author. None said they had direct knowledge or evidence.

Though Batts declined to discuss the article in detail, he has called it "humiliating" and said he had been cleared through multiple background checks.

"I have no legal or ethical issues in my background whatsoever," he said last month. After the council meeting, he told a reporter: "I went through a very thorough background check. I feel secure in my character and in doing my job and in leading this police department."

Council President Young was among the council members who have privately asked Batts about the article. Young met with Batts last month and reiterated Wednesday that he was satisfied with the commissioner's response that it was not true.

There was also a small protest outside City Hall before the hearing, which included comments from a woman whose son was fatally shot by police earlier this year.

Another resident, activist Leo Burroughs, ticked off recent police scandals, such as the towing scandal that led to more than a dozen convictions. "Most of us are mad as hell," Burroughs said. "What are you going to do about it?"

During his earlier prepared remarks, Batts said officers will be held to the "highest ethical standards."

"If you make a mistake with a good heart, I will support you. If you commit an offense out of the malice of your heart, I will hold you accountable," Batts said.

He brought several members of his family to the hearing, including aunts and a son. He declined to tell council members where he has set up residence in the city — not even which council district.

The president of the city police union, Robert F. Cherry, told the council that he was impressed with Batts' openness. He said an emphasis on patrol and a wider array of crime types is part of the union's pitch for reform.

"It's been said that there are two things cops don't like ... status quo and change," Batts said. "Well, I intend to stand on both. We will continue to drive down violent crime — that kind of status quo I can live with. The change will come from marked improvement in our systems and our commitment to community."

jfenton@baltsun.com


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