Darryl De Sousa was sworn in Wednesday as Baltimore’s new police commissioner after the city’s spending panel unanimously voted for his four-year contract.
The Board of Estimates approved the $210,000 annual salary without discussion. The contract includes a $150,000 severance clause if the commissioner is fired without cause.
“We hear this narrative about Baltimore and the narrative we don’t hear is that we are a great city and we are a great police department,” De Sousa said.
He said he recently held a two-day retreat with Baltimore police commanders where they strategized about how to change the department to a “culture of accountability.”
“We have a need to fix inside before we fix outside,” he said. “I promise I will not let this city down.”
Violent crime is down 29 percent so far this year compared with last year, when the city experienced its third consecutive year of more than 300 homicides.
The police department, meanwhile, is reeling from the federal convictions of eight members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.
The Justice Department found that police in Baltimore routinely violated the constitutional rights of local residents, particularly in predominantly poor, black neighborhoods; used excessive force; mistreated protesters, youths and people with mental disabilities; and dismissed sexual assault complaints improperly, among other failings. The department now labors under a court-enforced consent decree that requires reforms.
“I thought it was very important that we make this leadership change in the police department,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said. “We’ve been working hard every single day to reduce violence in the city.”
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he was “elated” Pugh decided to promote from within the department.
“This man, he gets it. He came up through the ranks,” Young said. “He has the confidence of the officers on the street, because he was a beat officer.”
Comptroller Joan Pratt called De Sousa’s tenure a “new era” in Baltimore policing.
“We must demand accountability from the department now and in the future,” she said.
The Baltimore City Council voted 14-1 to confirm De Sousa on Monday. The 53-year-old career officer has enjoyed widespread support and breezed through the confirmation process since Pugh nominated him last month.
Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who represents Northeast Baltimore, cast the lone dissenting vote. He said he did so, in part, because De Sousa had not made public any internal affairs records from his 30-year career in the department.
De Sousa has faced questions about his role in two fatal shooting incidents in 1995.
Moments before Monday night’s council vote, Pugh said on Twitter that she had reviewed all of the internal files on De Sousa and “can confirm that any allegation involving misconduct of any kind … is unsubstantiated.”