Baltimore police officials in charge of reform and consent decree implementation resign after commissioner's firing.
The two highest-ranking Baltimore police officials in charge of instituting reforms, overhauling policies and ensuring compliance with the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice have both resigned following Mayor Catherine Pugh’s firing of Police Commissioner Kevin Davis last week.
Deputy Commissioner Jason Johnson, the head of the department’s Strategic Services Bureau, was in charge of implementing “key reforms in the areas of professional accountability, training, recruiting, technology and data management,” and with “the development of organizational policies and practices reflective of progressive, constitutional policing,” according to the department’s website.
Johnson confirmed his resignation on Tuesday, but otherwise declined to comment.
Chief Ganesha Martin, the head of the Department of Justice Compliance, Accountability and External Affairs Division, served as a key point of contact with the Justice Department and other stakeholders in the consent decree process, helping to identify reforms and best practices “that serve to enhance BPD's internal capacities and external relationships with the community,” according to the department’s website.
Martin also confirmed her resignation on Tuesday, but declined to comment otherwise.
Pugh fired Davis on Friday, saying she had grown “impatient” with his inability to stem the historic rates of violence in recent years. She appointed Deputy Commissioner Darryl De Sousa in his place.
On Tuesday, police spokesman T.J. Smith noted that the consent decree is an order of the court that will remain in place regardless of command changes in the Police Department, under the oversight of a court-appointed monitoring team.
“The change in administrative personnel has no bearing [on] our commitment to the reforms that are being implemented by the monitor or on our responsiveness to the consent decree,” Smith said.
He said De Sousa had accepted the resignations of Johnson and Martin “with gratitude for their years of service,” and “will be defining the new organizational structure and command staff” at a later time. He said Capt. Rhonda McCoy is the acting commander of the compliance unit.
The Department of Justice declined to comment. Kenneth Thompson, head of the consent decree monitoring team, did not respond to a request for comment.
Neither Smith nor Amanda Rodrigues-Smith, Pugh’s spokeswoman, would answer questions about whether there had been any other resignations in the department as of Tuesday, or on the confusion that swept through police headquarters on the morning Davis was fired. Several top commanders had their access to the building cut off, their cell phone and email service cut off, and their computers seized.
Many in the department believed the issues reflected a broad shake-up in command under De Sousa, but Pugh’s office denied that was the case.
Rodrigues-Smith, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the problems were the result of a “technical issue.”
As of Tuesday, city officials still have not provided an explanation of the technical issue, despite multiple requests by The Baltimore Sun.
Davis has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Davis’ tenure was largely defined by historically high rates of violence in the city. But his time also was marked by the push for reforms in the department following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015 and the signing of the consent decree — an area in which Davis won praise.
Upon his firing Friday, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, thanked Davis for his “unyielding commitment” to the consent decree process.
Martin, an attorney and former deputy mayor under former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, joined the Police Department in October 2013 and has served in various capacities, including chief of staff to former Commissioner Anthony Batts and chief of community engagement. Davis tapped her to lead the Justice Department compliance unit just days after Rawlings-Blake fired Batts and appointed Davis interim commissioner.
Johnson, also an attorney, was a retired police major from Prince George's County when Davis tapped him in 2015 to serve as director of strategic development. He was appointed deputy commissioner in July 2016.
In an email to her staff obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Martin wrote that she had offered her resignation “with a heavy heart” and is proud of what they had accomplished together.
City Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the public safety committee and a longtime ally of De Sousa, said he has “the utmost confidence” that the new commissioner also is committed to the consent decree, and that he will replace Martin and Johnson “with competent people.”
Scott said the consent decree monitoring team also will make sure that reforms continue to be made in Baltimore.
“It’s not just the people at the top. Baltimore has a lot of people who have been working on this from the beginning,” Scott said. “People change teams all the time. Players get traded. That doesn’t mean you don’t go out every day and play to win.”