Fact-checking the terminations by Baltimore Police Department

Fact check: Baltimore police chief's comment on terminations doesn't match records.

As the nation watched the Baltimore unrest that followed Freddie Gray's death in police custody, police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters that he had worked for years to address brutality and other misconduct on the force.

"I have been a reform commissioner. I have taken over an organization that has many challenges and faced it head-on," Batts, who became commissioner in 2012, said during a nationally televised news conference on April 24.

"Whether it's from terminating 50 employees over the last two years for misconduct within this organization; whether it's from dropping officer-involved shootings 50 to 40 percent over the previous years. … Whether it's standing here taking tough questions during tough times. We're gonna continue to serve the city in a strong way."

But Batts overstated the number of terminations, according to statistics from the Police Department and the city. Here's a comparison:

The 50 terminations that Batts mentioned did not match records the department provided to The Baltimore Sun in September, shortly before it published a six-month investigation into brutality allegations.

From October 2012 through September 2014, 20 employees had been terminated under Batts, according to the records. Of those, 12 were either "police probationary officers or police officer trainees." Probationary employees can be terminated at any time unless they are accused of having used excessive force. For an excessive force accusation, the state Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights offers them limited protections.

In March, officials responded to The Sun's request for the number of firings and terminations since Batts became the city's top cop. Spokespersons for Batts and Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake answered: 25.

When Batts pegged the number at 50 last month, The Sun asked the Police Department and mayor's office to explain the difference in the numbers. Neither responded.

But in an online memo posted last week about reforms under Batts, the department said, "In the last 21/2 years, more than 25 employees have been terminated for misconduct. Nearly 50 employees in total have been separated from the agency" since Batts took over.

This isn't the first time that Batts' public statements did not match records.

In December, the commissioner announced that he had been named to President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. His words quickly landed on websites and made news in the city.

"I'm excited and honored to have been selected to be a member of this Task Force," Batts said in a statement at the time. "The work we are doing in Baltimore to rebuild public trust will be a tremendous benefit to me as we look to improve community relations nationwide."

The announcement surprised officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House; they said Obama had not included Batts on the task force. A spokeswoman for Batts attributed the gaffe to "confusion" after the commissioner attended a White House meeting.

mpuente@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
88°