Confusion was rampant inside Baltimore Police headquarters on Friday following Mayor Catherine Pugh’s announcement that she had fired Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, as other top commanders had their access to the building and their cell phone service cut off, according to sources within the department.
Pugh announced Friday morning that she was replacing Davis with one of his three deputy commissioners: Darryl De Sousa, head of the patrol bureau.
As the news was being announced, the two other deputy commissioners — Dean Palmere, head of the criminal investigations bureau, and Jason Johnson, head of the strategic services bureau — had their access to headquarters cut off, the sources said.
The sources said other commanders also had their access to the building, and to their computers and cell phones, cut off as well.
The actions were being perceived by many within the department as a signal of a larger purge of top commanders who were put in key leadership roles by Davis. However, Pugh’s office denied that was the case. Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said in an email that there have been no additional staff changes in the department.
Amanda Rodrigues-Smith, a spokeswoman for the mayor, says the issues with access and cell phones being cut off were because of a "technical issue” for which the mayor’s office was trying to determine the cause.
She acknowledged such actions are generally associated with firings, but said there “hasn’t been any reorganization” in the department’s leadership.
“There has been no one else who has been replaced outside of Police Commissioner Davis,” she said.
The police department has not responded to questions about command decisions — and whether anyone other than Davis has been fired.
Neither De Sousa nor Davis could not be reached for comment.
At one point Friday, the cell phone of Smith, chief spokesman for the department under Davis, appeared to have been cut off. However, a call to the phone Friday afternoon again went to Smith’s voicemail.
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the police union, said a shake up at the top levels of police command after the firing of a police commissioner is not unusual.
“It’s a normal procedure for any commander getting in to put his own people around him,” Ryan said.
Ryan said Davis also replaced top leaders in the department after he took over — though not the same day — and filled the department’s top ranks with outsiders unfamiliar with the Baltimore Police Department or the unique challenges it faces in the city.
“He brought in people from outside our jurisdiction who don’t really know what we do,” he said. “That’s a problem.”
Ryan said he supports Pugh’s selection of De Sousa — a longtime insider who came up through the department — as the new commissioner. He said rank-and-file officers are already expressing their excitement to move forward under his leadership.
“Part of our problem is morale being down,” he said. “Everybody is looking forward to working with Darryl De Sousa because they know he knows what he’s doing and he knows Baltimore.”