Batts to get Council President Young's support as police commissioner

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young met briefly Wednesday morning with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's pick for police commissioner and pledged to support him.

Young had backed an internal candidate for the post, and he declined comment Monday when word of the pick became public. But Young met privately with Anthony W. Batts, the former chief of the Long Beach and Oakland police departments in California, and said he came away impressed.

Young said he was struck by Batts' stated commitment to community policing, as well as his candor.

"I told him he had the gift of gab," Young said with a chuckle.

The Baltimore Sun first reported Monday that Batts was expected to be selected by Rawlings-Blake, and she and Batts have been making the rounds since an introductory news conference at City Hall the next day.

They went on two community walks Tuesday night in West Baltimore, and he made several media appearances and addressed district roll calls Wednesday. They are scheduled to visit Federal Hill on Thursday night.

In an interview on radio station WYPR with Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, Batts said he wants to combat the image of the television series "The Wire." "It has branded the city, unfortunately, and branded the Police Department," Batts said, adding that he saw an "opportunity to turn that around and see how magnificent and gorgeous it is."

Batts must be confirmed by the City Council, so Young's stance can affect the tenor of those hearings. Young also spoke with Rawlings-Blake, telling her he won't stand in the way. Several other council members have said they will back the mayor's selection, who will begin as commissioner on Sept. 27 if confirmed.

"This is [Rawlings-Blake's] pick. I'm not against who she wants," Young said. "She has to live and die with it, and I respect her in terms of who she wanted picked."

"I've been very good to this administration," he continued. "I don't put up too much of a fight. I did the budget thing, which I felt the council should've done, and the Grand Prix. But everything else, it sails through."

Like several other members of the City Council, Young had openly backed Deputy Commissioner Anthony Barksdale for the job. Barksdale, a 19-year veteran who grew up in Baltimore, had served as former commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III's deputy for the past five years and ran the department after Bealefeld stepped down.

Young said he wants Barksdale to remain in a Batts administration but isn't sure what decision Barksdale will make.

"I made a call to Barksdale to ask him to please stay," Young said. "I'm going to do the same thing with John Skinner [deputy commissioner of the administrative bureau] because I highly respect both of those guys. They are top cops."

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