New Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa talks about changes in policing for the Baltimore Police Department. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun video)
Darryl De Sousa, a 30-year Baltimore police veteran who rose through the ranks and held a number of leadership posts, is Mayor Catherine E. Pugh’s choice to become the department’s 40th police commissioner.
De Sousa, 53, is a native of New York City but has lived in Baltimore since moving here in 1983 to attend Morgan State University. He’s the first commissioner to come up through the department since Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who served from 2007 to 2012. Bealefeld’s two successors —Anthony Batts and Davis — were hired from outside.
Until now the deputy commissioner in charge of the patrol bureau, De Sousa on Friday announced immediate plans to strategically deploy waves of officers throughout the city to drive down crime.
“Everybody that knows me knows I’m a chess player, and I don’t like to be outwitted,” De Sousa said. “I think this initiative during this next 13-day period is going to be very effective.”
During his years in the department, De Sousa has gained the support of many officers, community groups and local leaders.
Former Deputy Commissioner Anthony Barksdale praised De Sousa, saying he has worked the streets and is an effective commander. Barksdale recalled that De Sousa once worked undercover assignments in the 1990s.
“You need someone who understands what the cop at the bottom, the patrol officer, the detectives are going through if he’s going to try to reduce this crime,” Barksdale said. “I remember when he was commanding the Northeast District, listening to him on the radio, and thinking to myself, ‘He’s got it.’ ”
De Sousa has held leadership roles mostly in the patrol division throughout his career. He was made a deputy commander of the Northeast District in 2008, then became the commanding officer of the same district in 2011. In 2012, he was appointed lieutenant colonel overseeing the neighborhood patrol division, then colonel and chief of patrol in 2013.
Councilman Brandon Scott, who represents Northeast Baltimore, said De Sousa is the right choice for the job because of his experience.
“He already lives in the city. He understands the culture in the city. There’s no learning curve,” Scott said.
“Being an African-American male provides an even deeper understanding,” he added. “He understands what it’s like to be that kid from West Baltimore, or East Baltimore.”
Scott said he heard from several community members Friday who expressed their support for De Sousa — the first time he’s heard such praise for a new commissioner during his time on the council.
“That to me shows something,” Scott said.
Barbara F. Jackson, 73, president of the Frankford Improvement Association Coalition of Communities, said De Sousa was “a fantastic commander” when he worked in the Northeast District. He was known for “his caring, his involvement, his total knowledge of the city and this area.”
Jackson said De Sousa made an effort to meet with groups throughout the district, including those helping acclimate refugees who moved there.
“He was one of those people who listened,” she said. “He had police officers come into the area, and advocated for them to be very friendly. He was very persistent with making sure things were followed like it should be.”
In 2012, when De Sousa was the Northeast District commander, violent crime went down 22 percent compared to the previous year, with homicides down 32 percent and nonfatal shootings down 23 percent. Citywide, violent crime was down 7 percent tht year.
Early in his career, De Sousa was involved in two on-duty fatal shootings.
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In February 1995, De Sousa shot an armed gunman after a foot chase in West Baltimore, according to police reports. Police said that when De Sousa tried to interview a man near the intersection of Baltimore and Gilmor streets, the man ran and De Sousa followed. Police said the man pulled out a gun, aimed it at De Sousa, and the officer fired at him 10 times, according to a Baltimore Sun article at the time. The man died at the scene.
In December 1995, De Sousa was one of three officers who police said fatally shot 18-year-old Melvin James, a bystander, by accident during a gunbattle with an escaped murderer in Southwest Baltimore. The three officers were members of the Violent Crimes Task Force investigating an unrelated incident on South Monroe Street when they heard gunfire. The officers approached the gunman, George Thomas Jr., 38, and exchanged gunfire, killing Thomas.
Police said a bullet ricocheted and hit James in the forehead. Police said they could not determine which of the three officers fired the fatal shot.
In both incidents, the department defended the actions of the officers.
De Sousa deferred completion of his degree at Morgan State to join the Police Department. He received his degree in applied liberal arts in 1997.