As a proud resident of Baltimore and a 30-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), I was profoundly disturbed to learn about the deplorable accounts of police corruption described during the trial of two members of BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force. Justice was served by Monday’s guilty verdicts. There is simply no way to minimize the damage that is done when sworn police officers engage in criminal behavior. It is among the most serious betrayals of the public trust, which is why rooting out corrupt officers will be one of my highest priorities as police commissioner.
To that end, I have already taken several steps that should go a long way toward ensuring that what happened with the Gun Trace Task Force never happens again in Baltimore. Those steps include:
- Creating a new anti-corruption unit;
- Conducting random integrity and polygraph testing; and
- Forming a new unit to curb overtime fraud and abuse.
Regaining the public’s trust will require that we do a better job of connecting with the citizens and other constituents we have a sworn duty to serve. Among other things, we need to communicate more clearly and transparently about our strategies to fight crime, listen more to residents’ concerns and be more actively involved in our communities. Whenever possible, I want my officers out of their cars, interacting with people and helping provide effective and durable solutions to the problems that afflict many communities. It is the most fundamental form of constitutional policing, and it works.
Having spent most of my career in the Patrol Division, I know that police departments are most effective in preventing and solving crimes when they have their communities’ full support and cooperation. If residents don’t trust the police, they are less inclined to work with them. Sadly, that has been the dynamic in Baltimore for many years. It is a trend that must be reversed, and I am confident that, over time and with a sustained effort, it will be. Nothing is more important right now in our fight against crime.
Last Thursday, a graduation ceremony was held for Baltimore’s newest police officers: 46 young men and women from all different backgrounds who swore an oath to “diligently and faithfully, without partiality or prejudice” carry out their duties as law enforcement officers. Officer Jake Aumak, who was selected to give the class address, urged his classmates to serve with courage, compassion, dignity and honor. I could not have said it better myself.
A week ago, I awarded Bronze Stars for meritorious service to four police officers whose bravery and dedication to our city should make all of us proud. I expect to honor many more officers during my time as police commissioner. The overwhelming majority of Baltimore City police officers are hard-working public servants who risk their lives every single day. They want the same thing that every law-abiding resident wants: a safer, better Baltimore. Working together — truly together — we can, and will, make it happen. Together we succeed.
Darryl De Sousa is commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.