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Baltimore mayor says new police commissioner will be on the job within a month

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said Wednesday that the city’s next police commissioner will be on the job in less than 30 days.

“I expect to have someone named by the end of the month,” Pugh told reporters at her weekly news conference.

Pugh announced in June that she had launched a nationwide search and was forming a committee to help her identify the best candidate.

“We are going to engage a national search,” Pugh said at a June 6 news conference. “We’ve got folks from all across the country who are interested in the position. There will be a listening tour and there will be a seven-member panel who will make the selection of three.”

Pugh said she would choose from the three finalists.

Pugh has declined to name the members on the panel and has not elaborated on plans for a listening tour. Her administration also has declined to name candidates, citing confidentiality agreements.

Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle, who took over in May, has expressed interest in taking the job permanently, as has Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a longtime law enforcement officer in Baltimore who is currently a top commander in the Baltimore sheriff's office.

In late July, City Solicitor Andre Davis assured a federal judge overseeing the Police Department’s federal consent decree that a permanent commissioner would be on the job by Halloween. City officials said they had received “north of 40 applications” for the job by the August 17 deadline.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, who is expected to hear from city officials at another public hearing next week about the consent decree, has expressed concern about the department’s ability to implement mandated reforms without a permanent leader.

Baltimore police have had four leaders in the past three years.

Tuggle took over after Darryl De Sousa resigned in May after federal authorities charged him with failing to file his tax returns for three years. Pugh fired Kevin Davis in January after the city passed 300 homicides for the third year in a row. Anthony Batts was fired in July 2015 by then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake amid backlash over the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent unrest, and as homicides began to spike.

The Police Department subsequently entered into the consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department after a federal investigation found a pattern of unconstitutional policing.

Rawlings-Blake hired Batts with the help of the Police Executive Research Forum, a research and policy organization in Washington. Pugh said PERF is acting in an advisory role in the latest search.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, chairman of the public safety committee, said council members have not been informed of the selection process. He said he would like to see the process expanded to include more stakeholders.

“The structure is broken,” he said.

Scott said he would like the department to adopt a “Board of Police Commissioners,” which would include elected members as well as appointed members from the mayor’s office and the council.

“That to me creates that balance that we need,” Scott said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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