Davis expected to gain council's support in Monday confirmation vote

The City Council is poised to remove the "interim" from police commissioner Kevin Davis' title on Monday with a vote to confirm him as Baltimore's 38th police chief, a move some say will add stability to the department in the year of Freddie Gray, the unrest of April and the subsequent spike in violence.

Davis has gained support from many in the city, who praise his eagerness to visit their communities and to listen. But he has drawn criticism from some. Demonstrators staged a sit-in at City Hall last week to oppose his nomination, saying he has been less tolerant of civil disobedience than his predecessor, Anthony W. Batts.


City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said most constituents he's heard from back Davis. He said he's received favorable comments from inside Baltimore and out, including a letter of support from state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

"I can see the majority of the council ready to confirm Davis as commissioner," Young said. "Most of the comments I've heard from the community have been positive."


Nevertheless, a group of protesters objected to Davis' confirmation at a council committee hearing last week and refused to leave City Hall for hours after the building was closed.

Police arrested 16 protesters and charged them with trespassing.

Trey Murphy, 19, an organizer with the Baltimore Algebra Project, was among those arrested. He said the protesters are asking Davis for better treatment of activists during rallies; they have released a list of 19 demands.

"They're arresting peaceful protesters," Murphy said. "We're noticing the police don't know how to interact with our communities."

Davis has said the arrests were the "last thing we wanted to do." Police waited about seven hours after the end of the Wednesday's committee hearing before making arrests around 4 a.m. Thursday. But Davis called some of the protesters demands "absolutely unreasonable."

He referred to one demand that calls on police to be "more tolerant of minor law breaking (such as thrown water bottles) when deciding whether to escalate the use of force."

"The Police Department is not going to look the other way when water bottles are thrown at the Police Department," Davis told reporters last week. "That's not going to happen, so that's an unreasonable demand."

Under council policy, the voting session of the full 15-member City Council on Monday evening does not allow for public testimony.

"I'm expecting business as usual," Young said Sunday. "If the young people want to come down and protest, I will allow it. I think peaceful protest is a constitutional right. But something I've never done is to allow people to disrespect the process of the council. I will ask them to respect the process and, if not, I will ask them to leave."

Davis took the helm of the Police Department in July amid a spike in homicides and other violence that prompted Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to fire Batts, who she said had become a distraction.

Shootings in the city have increased by 77 percent over last year. Homicides are up 49 percent; robberies are up 18 percent.

Daphne L. Alston, founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters United, said Davis has been attentive in listening to the group's concerns about unsolved homicides and police brutality.


"I like how he goes to people's houses," Alston said. "Before our kids were considered nobody. He understands our kids were not just homicide victim No. 214. He understands our kids are human beings. ... He's tough, and he believes in communities."

The Rev. Glenna Huber, co-chair of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, said the interfaith activist group has asked Davis for more foot patrols and community presence, and has already seen results.

"He has been responsive on all fronts," Huber said.

Most of the City Council members have indicated support for Davis.

"Whatever issues I have brought to his attention, he has dealt with efficiently," said Councilman William "Pete" Welch. "It makes it easy to support him as the new commissioner."

City Councilman Robert W. Curran said Davis has impressed him.

"I talk with folks on the street," he said. "I talk with the cops. And most of the feedback I've gotten from the ground level is positive."

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton called Davis a "breath of fresh air."

"I've started to see more police on foot patrol in Park Heights," she said. "I can feel community policing starting to be put in place."

Rawlings-Blake, who is not seeking re-election next year, plans to offer Davis a contract with a significant severance package.

Under the terms of the deal, Davis would be paid $200,000 annually through June 30, 2020. If the city's next mayor chose to fire him without cause, he would be eligible to receive 75 percent of a year's salary — at least $150,000.

The council has the authority to confirm or reject Davis' hiring, but has no say over the details of his contract. The contract requires the approval of the Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Rawlings-Blake.

Both City Councilman Carl Stokes, who is running for mayor, and Councilman Nick J. Mosby, who is considering a run, are withholding support from Davis over the terms of the contract.

"For a City that has paid out more than a half-million dollars to seven former police commissioners in the past 15 years, the golden parachute negotiated by Mayor Rawlings-Blake for Interim Commissioner Davis is too much to ask our Citizens to pay," Mosby said in a statement.

Under state law, Baltimore mayors hire police commissioners to six-year terms. Batts was about a year into his six-year term when he was fired. If Davis is confirmed, he would get a contract for the rest of Batts' term.

Councilman Warren Branch said he's not thrilled about a contract that lasts until 2020, but he plans to vote the way his community association presidents want. So far, he said, most have endorsed Davis.

"We should be basing it on what our constituents think," Branch said.

City Councilman Brandon Scott said the city, not the state, should set the length of police commissioners' terms. He said he has spoken with at least one state lawmaker about changing the law.

"It's clear we should not be required as a city to give an agency head a six-year contract," Scott said. "This is a simple one to fix."

A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said neither the mayor nor Davis plan to attend the council session Monday. They plan instead to host a public safety forum in Northwest Baltimore.

"Commissioner Davis and his approach to law enforcement have earned strong support from the community, the rank-and-file officers, and our local, state and federal partners," spokesman Howard Libit said in an email. "The Mayor is optimistic that the Council's confirmation vote on Monday night will reflect that widespread support."



Recommended on Baltimore Sun