Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has filled his top command staff with veteran Baltimore cops — including retirees he recruited to return — who he says will restore lost pride in the troubled department while also steering it to a better future.
Right at the top, as his two deputy commissioners, are retirees: Andre Bonaparte as deputy commissioner of support services and Thomas Cassella as deputy commissioner of operations.
Bonaparte and Cassella joined the department in the 1980s, like De Sousa, and served on the force until the late 2000s, when they both retired and entered the private security sector.
“They have strong backgrounds. They were well respected within the police department. They’re very knowledgeable,” De Sousa said. “They’re going to help us restore some of the culture we had in the past — the positive, strong culture with respect to community policing, patrol, not taking short cuts.”
De Sousa announced more than a dozen staffing decisions Thursday — including that he is shifting the head of the department’s internal affairs office, Ian Dombroski, to lead the unit that investigates police shootings. In the recent Gun Trace Task Force police corruption trial, a convicted police officer accused Dombroski of improperly approving overtime for officers who had not worked the hours. Dombroski has denied the charge.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, De Sousa said Bonaparte, Cassella and other veterans he’s brought back or promoted will balance their institutional knowledge of what worked in the past with the policing reforms required under the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“They’re going to help create a strategic plan for what the Baltimore Police Department needs to look like — not just tomorrow, but in the next five years, in 2025, in 2030,” he said.
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the police union, said he is confident about De Sousa and his appointments, many of whom he knows. “People are worrying about going back to a place where we don’t want to be, and I don’t think we will,” he said.
Bonaparte and Cassella, he said, “are very intelligent and they know what went right and what went wrong, and I think they’re going to help the commissioner put us in the right direction.”
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh appointed De Sousa, at the time a deputy commissioner in charge of patrol, as the department’s acting commissioner last month after firing Commissioner Kevin Davis. She said she had grown “impatient” with Davis as homicides continued into 2018 at record levels. Pugh’s office did not respond to a request for comment on De Sousa’s appointments.
Beyond the violence, De Sousa inherits a department mired in scandal, as the federal racketeering trial of two members of the once-elite Gun Trace Task Force concluded Thursday after days of testimony outlining the unit’s corruption — from robbing people of money and stealing guns and drugs and reselling them on the streets, to lying in court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims.
During the trial, allegations of wrongdoing were made against at least a dozen additional officers, 10 in the city, who are not currently facing charges. The department has said it is investigating those claims.
The case comes after years of scrutiny for the police department, including a Justice Department investigation after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray and subsequent rioting in 2015 that found widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory policing — particularly in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.
Early Thursday, Pugh said she has been meeting with De Sousa regularly “on plans to ensure the highest level of accountability and integrity going forward.”
De Sousa’s new command structure will serve as the skeletal support for any in-house reforms — his appointees leading the way on a day-to-day basis.
Bonaparte and Cassella, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, both return to the department at higher ranks than they held when they departed. De Sousa said he considered their private-sector experience, which was all related to public safety, in making their appointments.
De Sousa is the first commissioner in years to have come up through the Baltimore ranks. He said he never worked “hand in hand” with Bonaparte, but considers Cassella — who was his lieutenant in the Northwest District years ago — a mentor.
Bonaparte spent 21 years in the police department before retiring as deputy district commander of the Eastern District to become senior director of public safety for East Baltimore Development Inc. in 2008. In 2012, he founded Frontline Management Services, which provides public safety services in city neighborhoods, including Eager Park.
Cassella spent 23 years in the police department before retiring as a major in 2007. He worked in several corporate security positions, including at the Coca-Cola Company and GE Aviation, before becoming director of security at Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore in 2015.
Cassella also served on Pugh’s mayoral transition team as a public safety and policing adviser.
De Sousa said he also has named retirees to oversee patrol and special operations, and for a new position of inspector general. Col. Perry Stanfield will serve as chief of patrol, the department’s largest division. Col. Robert Smith will serve as chief of special operations.
Ed Jackson, a retired colonel who recently served on a task force recommending reforms to civilian oversight of the police department as part of the consent decree, will return in a civilian capacity as the department’s new inspector general overseeing constitutional and impartial policing, among other duties.
De Sousa has promoted officials from within the department to lead a new “inspections and integrity unit,” the criminal investigations division, internal affairs, the police academy, and a consent decree implementation unit.
Col. Osborne Robinson, who was in charge of the patrol division under Davis, will now serve as chief of an inspections and integrity unit. As part of that role, he will oversee a new “overtime abuse unit,” De Sousa said.
Col. Byron Conaway will oversee the criminal investigations division, and Maj. Stephanie Lansey-Delgado will replace Dombroski to oversee internal affairs.
De Sousa promoted two majors — Maj. Deron Garrity and Maj. Steven Ward — to the rank of lieutenant colonel, to serve as area commanders of the city’s east and west sides, respectively.
Lt. Col. Donald Bauer and Maj. Chris Jones will continue overseeing homicide investigations.
De Sousa also promoted LaTonya Lewis to lieutenant colonel in charge of homeland security issues — making her the highest-ranking African American woman in department history.
De Sousa declined Thursday to discuss demotions that went along with the promotions and new hires.
Like De Sousa, Bonaparte has a fatal shooting in his past. In 1993 in East Baltimore, he shot a 36-year-old man named Gordon B. Coleman who was holding two bloodstained knives over his head and insisting police were “going to have to . . . kill me,” a police spokesman told The Sun at the time.
The spokesman, Sam Ringgold, said at the time that Coleman lunged toward the officers at the scene when Bonaparte, then 29, fired three shots. A 10-year-old girl who had been standing across the street, Candice Jenkins, told The Sun at the time that she saw Coleman "begging" the police to kill him.
Maj. Marc Partee, currently a fellow with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, will oversee the police academy upon his return, along with Capt. Sean Brown.
Maj. James Rhoden, who currently oversees the academy, will continue in that role until Partee’s return, at which time he will start as head of a new consent decree implementation unit. He will work with Michelle Wirzberger, an attorney who will serve in a civilian capacity.
Maj. Rhonda McCoy, who was in an acting role overseeing consent decree implementation after Chief Ganesha Martin resigned last month, will take over a new internal audit section.
Maj. Fred Gilbart will oversee tactical operations.
Lt. Col. Margaret Barillaro will oversee the training and personnel division.
Col. Melvin Russell remains in charge of community collaborations in a renamed youth and community division.
Col. Melissa Hyatt remains in charge of homeland security, as well as training issues.
Chief Steve O’Dell remains in charge of forensic science and management services.
Chief Rodney Hill remains in charge of the office of professional responsibility.
Chief Daniel Beck remains in charge of legal affairs.
Chief T.J. Smith remains in charge of the office of public information.
James Gillis remains the commissioner’s chief of staff.
Central: Maj. Kevin Jones; Northern: Maj. Richard Gibson; Southern: Maj. Monique Brown; Western: Maj. Sheree Briscoe; Northwestern: Maj. Dion Hatchett; Southwestern: Maj. James Handley; Eastern: Maj. Lloyd Wells; Northeastern: Maj. Jeffrey Shorter; Southeastern: Maj. George Clinedinst