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De Sousa decentralizing Baltimore police citywide shooting, robbery units, sending 80 detectives back to districts

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa is decentralizing the two units that investigate shootings and robberies citywide, returning about 80 detectives from headquarters to the city’s nine district stations.

De Sousa made brief mention of the move during a news conference late last week touching on a range of changes and new command staff appointments. The department said this week that the move would be made over time.

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“It is an ongoing process and it will be phased in,” said T.J. Smith, a police spokesman.

Asked why the decision was being made, Smith said, “The Commissioner believes it’s more effective with the detectives in the districts.”

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The placement of detective units has changed repeatedly over the years, based on the preference of the many commissioners who have led the department.

Both the citywide shootings and citywide robbery units were most recently centralized at headquarters by De Sousa’s predecessor, former Commissioner Kevin Davis.

A day after announcing a new command staff, acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa reversed his decision on one top commander Friday.

When Davis first arrived in Baltimore in January 2015, it was as deputy commissioner overseeing the Investigations and Intelligence Bureau, which included homicide detectives and district detectives.

After Davis was appointed to lead the agency following then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s firing of former Commissioner Anthony Batts, Davis reorganized the department multiple times.

He centralized the shooting detectives first, saying they would benefit from sharing intelligence and working “alongside” the homicide unit downtown. Shooting detectives investigate all non-fatal shootings and other discharges of gunfire where a person is intentionally shooting at someone else for a motive other than robbery.

Robbery detectives — including those who investigate carjackings and street, commercial and bank robberies, were centralized later, in late 2016.

The decentralization of the detective units is one of several organizational decisions made by De Sousa in recent days, as the 30-year veteran of the police force has begun to put his own mark on the department.

De Sousa has also said he is considering the reversal of other changes made by Davis, including Davis’ decision to disband plainclothes units for drug and gun enforcement. He said he is looking at best practices for plainclothes officers nationwide before making any decisions.

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has filled his top command staff with veteran Baltimore cops — including retirees he recruited to return — who will restore lost pride in the troubled department while also steering it to a better future.

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