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Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts at an October news conference with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts at an October news conference with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Amid nationwide protests calling for greater police accountability, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts announced Tuesday 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. "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."

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But the announcement surprised officials at the Department of Justice and the White House. Although Obama announced the creation of the panel, only the co-chairs have been picked, said Kevin Lewis, a Justice Department spokesman.

"The task force hasn't been created." Lewis said.

A city police spokeswoman said Batts' announcement was the result of a misunderstanding. "There was confusion among everyone on the panel," Lt. Sarah Connolly said, referring to a meeting Batts attended Monday at the White House.

A statement released by the White House on Monday said the new task force will be chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general who is a co-chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Research Advisory Committee. The statement did not name any other members.

The task force, which will include community leaders and law enforcement officials, will explore ways to build public trust and promote reductions in crime, the release said. Its report is scheduled to be completed in 90 days.

Batts attended Monday's meeting at the White House with other top police leaders and civil-rights organizers to discuss calls for more police accountability. Others at the meeting included Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department's community policing office. Davis is leading a federal review of police brutality allegations in Baltimore.

At that event, Obama proposed using millions in federal funding to help pay for body cameras for 50,000 police officers across the country.

The president's announcement followed nationwide protests over a Ferguson, Mo., grand jury's decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The case has stoked anger in many communities about police treatment of minorities.

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