The Baltimore police commander in charge of handling the department's brutality allegations as lethal interactions between police and unarmed black men grew to a nationwide issue announced his resignation Wednesday.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez will retire at the end of the month. His announcement came on the eve of a Justice Department town hall meeting Thursday to address allegations of misconduct, brutality and excessive force against Baltimore police.
In 21/2 years with the Baltimore department, Rodriguez has overhauled the investigation of police shootings, in-custody deaths and use of force that results in serious injury or death.
"Few people could have undertaken the herculean task presented to the deputy commissioner with the same grace, good spirits and devotion to duty as Jerry," Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said in a statement.
Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, a Baltimore police spokesman, said Rodriguez made the decision to leave independently. The department said Rodriguez was not available for an interview.
Rodriguez said in a statement that his tenure "has been an incredible source of pride" and leaving is "bittersweet."
Rodriguez is one of three deputy commissioners who report directly to Batts. He was hired from the Los Angeles Police Department in January 2013 to oversee internal affairs, officer discipline, use-of-force investigations and other functions that fall under the department's Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau. His annual salary is $138,000.
Rodriguez inherited the task of making the Baltimore department more transparent and responsive to complaints that officers harassed and abused young black males.
Improving community relations was a top goal for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake when she hired Batts to lead the department in 2012.
Batts, who also came from California, picked Rodriguez to implement his vision based on the deputy commissioner's reputation for making similar changes within the Los Angeles Police Department, where he worked for 26 years.
In Baltimore, Rodriguez created a Force Investigation Team to investigate all incidents in which police interactions resulted in death or serious injury.
Under his direction, the department posted all use-of-force investigations on its website. However, the agency has been slow to release final reports of the incidents as promised; it has posted fewer than 10 final reports out of nearly 40 investigations listed since 2014.
Police say complaints of discourtesy and excessive force have fallen by more than 40 percent in the past two years.
When allegations of police misconduct or abuse surfaced, Rodriguez was most often called upon to address them at news conferences. That included this week, when a man was critically injured during his arrest near Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore.
Rodriguez's departure comes amid a federal review of the Police Department's policies and procedures. Batts requested the review after The Baltimore Sun found that the city had paid $5.4 million in the past five years to settle hundreds of cases of alleged police brutality.
The Justice Department meeting is open to the public. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Room 109 of the Coppin State University Physical Education Complex.
Baltimore City Council member Brandon M. Scott said Rodriguez struck the right tone when he addressed misconduct or abuse investigations, but said his words did not add up to the level of transparency that police had pledged.
"Switching the way they handled those kinds of incidents and changing the way they got out in front of them is what they did a great job of," Scott said. "Unfortunately, with what's still in place, the problem I have is that there's not enough information being shared."
Scott said he hopes Rodriguez's replacement is someone from the department's ranks who "understands Baltimore."
In a statement, Rawlings-Blake called Rodriguez "a truly exceptional public servant" who helped "lead the move to rebuild public trust in the Baltimore Police Department."
The other deputy commissioners are Kevin Davis, a former Anne Arundel County police chief, who heads the Intelligence and Investigations Bureau, and Dean M. Palmere, who commands the Neighborhood Patrol Bureau.