Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison continued shaking up his department Tuesday, naming two outsiders to key positions. One will oversee day-to-day operations of thousands of officers; the other will lead misconduct investigations when some of them get in trouble.
Michelle Wilson, an assistant Maryland attorney general, will oversee the public integrity bureau, which investigates allegations of misconduct by officers. Last month Wilson filed an affidavit directly contradicting Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s account of an incident central to a lawsuit against Mosby brought by a former city prosecutor.
Now Wilson will oversee internal investigations that could be reviewed by Mosby’s office, which prosecutes criminal cases against officers.
Wilson will serve as the highest-ranking woman in the department, and the first African-American woman to serve as a deputy commissioner. She has has represented the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services at the attorney general’s office and worked as a prosecutor with the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office for 10 years, including four years prosecuting homicide cases.
Harrison also introduced Michael Sullivan, the deputy police chief in Louisville, Kentucky, as his new Deputy Commissioner to head the operations bureau, which includes criminal investigations and patrol. Sullivan will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of thousands of officers.
In Louisville, Sullivan introduced a program to de-escalate conflict and to promote transparency whenever officers are involved in shootings. Louisville police pledge to release any video of such the incidents and identify the officers involved within 24 hours. Sullivan has a bachelor’s degree in police administration and a master’s degree in administration of justice from the University of Louisville.
Harrison said Tuesday that he has no concerns about Wilson’s ability to work with the Baltimore State Attorney’s Office, despite the recent clash with Mosby.
“I’m confident that the entire integrity bureau will work collaboratively and efficiently,” and it will “hold ourselves and our members accountable,” he said.
Wilson recently filed a sworn affidavit for the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Mosby, questioning Mosby’s account of a key issue in the case.
A former city prosecutor, Keri Borzilleri, sued Mosby in Baltimore Circuit Court, claiming she was fired as retribution for supporting the political campaign of then-State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, whom Mosby beat in the 2014 primary election.
Borzilleri’s attorneys claimed Mosby made a “throat-slitting gesture” toward another former prosecutor and Bernstein supporter at the banquet for the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys. Syeetah Hampton-El, the former assistant state’s attorney and now administrative law judge, testified that Mosby made the gesture in her direction. But Mosby denied the claim during the hearing.
Wilson wrote a Facebook post during the trial that said Mosby “lied on that witness stand under oath.” The post has since been deleted.
“I was facing the dais when she made the throat slitting gesture but the reaction at my table was immediate,” Wilson wrote. “Those facing her immediately commented and I was right across from Syeetah and could [see] her face and reaction.”
She continued, “I’ll never forget that event, because it was what convinced me that Mosby wasn’t mature enough to be the State’s Attorney.
When asked about Wilson’s appointment, a spokeswoman for Mosby’s office said in a statement Tuesday that prosecutors will work with the police department to address the city’s issues.
“[I]n a time of unprecedented challenge and the need for seamless government transition, we remain steadfast in our commitment of working with Mayor (Jack) Young, Commissioner Harrison and their staff to fight crime and root out police corruption and misconduct,” spokeswoman Melba E. Saunders said in an email.
Harrison has been working to restructure the beleaguered department since coming to Baltimore earlier this year. The department faces high crime, a federal consent decree and deep community distrust following a federal corruption case of eight city police officers.
“Certainly it has has been a challenge,” Harrison said. Harrison is the the fifth leader in the department since 2015.
“In spite of it all, what you see here before you represents people who want to be here and who want to be a part of the solution,” Harrison said at a news conference at police headquarters. “It speaks to what we are trying to accomplish here by turning this department into the best department in the country.”
Harrison has restructured the department into four bureaus, three of which will now be headed by civilians.
Wilson and Sullivan join deputy commissioner Jim Gillis, a civilian, who was appointed by Harrison to oversee the administration bureau, which includes finance, human resource and recruitment. Gillis previously served as a chief of staff in the department. Danny Murphy, who worked under Harrison when he was superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, came to Baltimore to head the newly created compliance bureau. Murphy will oversee sweeping reforms mandated by the consent decree reached between the city and U.S. Justice Department in 2017.
Sullivan will make an annual salary of $195,000, and Wilson will make $182,500.
Harrison said that all four deputies will answer directly to him.
Kenneth Thompson, who heads the consent decree monitoring team, was pleased with the hires: “They seem to be highly qualified, Michelle Wilson in particular.” Thompson said he’s heard people “speak very highly of her. I’m very happy with the direction [Harrison]’s taking and he’s moving forward in an efficient manner.”
Thompson said internal affairs has been a “huge issue” for the monitoring team, which is helping implement consent decree reforms.
“It’s one of the most critical units within he department, and it’s got issues. They’ve made some progress, but there’s a long way to go,” he said.
Harrison still has to appoint chiefs to oversee government affairs; education and training; technology; finance; and equity and equal opportunity.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum, who brought Harrison to Baltimore, has also been helping Harrison search for members of his executive team. He said Sullivan is a good fit for Baltimore because he is “operationally strategic and forward thinking.”
He said it is challenging to find qualified people willing to uproot their families for a No. 2 position. Many people were interested but didn’t have the qualifications for a city like Baltimore that is facing both high crime and is under a consent decree.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.