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Kevin Davis, former Baltimore police commissioner, writing book on police consent decrees

Former Baltimore Police commissioner Kevin Davis will write a book analyzing police consent decrees across the country.
Former Baltimore Police commissioner Kevin Davis will write a book analyzing police consent decrees across the country. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Kevin Davis, the former Baltimore Police commissioner who helped negotiate and begin implementing policing reforms under the city’s consent decree with the Justice Department, has won a fellowship from the Open Society Foundations to write a book analyzing such agreements across the country.

Davis, who was fired by Mayor Catherine Pugh amid stubbornly-high crime in the city in January 2018, served as Baltimore’s top cop during the earliest stages of its work with the Justice Department — first as it came under a federal civil rights investigation, then as it negotiated its agreement, and finally as it began implementing reforms. Before that, he was a high-ranking commander in the Prince George’s County Police Department as that agency implemented a consent decree.

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His book, he said, will touch on both those experiences, but also look at other departments that have come under consent decrees across the country — asking why some have been “successful in relatively short order” while others fail for years to come into compliance.

“My book really sets out to find out the formula for success and the pitfalls for failure,” Davis said. It will consider as indicators of success both crime reductions and improved community relationships, he said.

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Mayor Catherine Pugh replaced police commissioner Kevin Davis on Friday, citing the need to get a handle on Baltimore’s record levels of violence.

Davis, 49, is one of four fellows chosen by the Open Society Foundations this year, the third year in which the fellowships have been granted. The program supports “seasoned public servants chosen from the senior ranks of federal, state, and local government who have advanced economic and social justice,” according to the foundations.

Fellows receive between $100,000 and $133,000 for projects lasting between 12 and 18 months. Davis said his project is for a year; he declined to provide the exact amount of funding he received.

He said the fellowship grew from interactions he had in Baltimore with leaders at the Open Society Institute, whose input he sought when the department was under investigation and negotiating its consent decree. He hopes his book will provide police commissioners coming under similar reform agreements in the future with a single source of useful information about how to manage the process.

“I couldn’t go buy a book. There wasn’t one. So this is hopefully going to turn out to be a play book for police departments who find themselves in the precarious situation of being under a DOJ civil rights investigation,” he said.

The fellowship announcement comes less than a week after Davis was named chief security officer by security software company Armored Things, which has a security software platform that allows large institutions and venues to track the flow of people on their properties. Davis is also teaching an Introduction to Justice Systems class at American University.

The federal judge overseeing the Baltimore police consent decree on Thursday called for the state to contribute money towards a new city police training facility, and also disputed recent comments by the governor that reforms and crime reduction can’t occur simultaneously.

Davis said having all that on his plate is a lot, but “very doable” — and “no where near the time commitment of being a police commissioner.”

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