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Baltimore Police Col. Sheree Briscoe to become first African American woman promoted to deputy commissioner

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announces in a news conference on Mar. 31, 2021 changes in the department's top leadership positions

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced Wednesday the promotion of Col. Sheree Briscoe, who will be first African American woman to be deputy commissioner and the first to oversee the department’s day-to-day operations.

Briscoe, a 26-year veteran of the department who currently serves as the chief of the criminal investigation division, will take oversight of thousands of officers as head of the department’s Operations Bureau.

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Harrison announced her promotion among a series of command changes at a news conference at police headquarters.

Harrison also said that Deputy Commissioner Michael Sullivan will move to the department’s Compliance Bureau, which is responsible for implementing federal consent decree reforms. And Harrison announced the departure of Deputy Commissioner Danny Murphy, a civilian, who currently heads the Compliance Bureau.

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The command changes will go into effect June 1.

Harrison called Briscoe a “daughter of Baltimore and of the Baltimore Police Department” and noted her leadership roles overseeing patrol and criminal investigative units. She started her career in the Western District and later became the major overseeing that district. Harrison said Briscoe asked to be reassigned to the Western District after the 2015 unrest following the death of Freddie Gray.

“Out of her love and concern for the district, saying at the time, ‘I know whoever came to lead had to care about the people,’” Harrison said, quoting Briscoe. “To me, that’s the definition of leadership.”

Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott called Briscoe’s role “critically important as we continue to fight violence crime in Baltimore. I am confident that Col. Briscoe will thrive in this role.”

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“Violent crime is our biggest challenge and reducing it is a top priority for us,” Scott said. “Improving public safety and strengthening relationships with Baltimore residents starts at the top. It starts with leaders who are committed to a new culture and a new way rooted in integrity and Col. Briscoe is a leader of that ilk.”

Briscoe is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, a professional development residency program.

“This type of command and management training is invaluable,” and is important to building “the next generation of leaders within the department,” Harrison said.

Harrison hired Sullivan in 2019 to head Baltimore’s Operation Bureau after he served as the deputy police chief in Louisville, Kentucky. In his new role, Sullivan will remain a deputy commissioner and be responsible for implementing numerous reforms mandated by the federal consent decree.

Harrison said he selected Sullivan in part for his leadership during Baltimore’s response to police brutality protests last summer after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protests in Baltimore were largely peaceful, while other cities experienced violence.

“Protesters were able to exercise their First Amendment rights safely and without major incident,” Harrison said. “This was in stark contrast to the much more violent and destructive demonstrations in other major cities, as well as to the civil unrest that Baltimore experienced in 2015.”

Murphy accompanied Harrison from the New Orleans Police Department, where Harrison credited him with that department’s success in implementing consent decree reforms. Murphy is returning home to New Orleans and is expected to work on police reforms at a national level, Harrison said. He did not specify what Murphy’s new job will be.

Harrison said Murphy is “regarded as one of the leading experts of policing reforms in this country.”

Harrison said Murphy’s departure will not delay implementation of reforms that began in 2018. The federal judge overseeing the consent decree process previously expressed frustration after a series of leadership changes at the police department. Harrison, hired two years ago, became the city’s fifth police commissioner in four years.

“I am absolutely confident that this reassignment from Deputy Murphy to Deputy Sullivan will not slow down progress,” Harrison said.

Harrison said the department is seeking a replacement for Briscoe as head of the criminal investigation division.

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