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De Sousa says deputy commissioner whose appointment was halted by false memo won't take Baltimore police job

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said Tuesday that the retiree whose appointment as deputy commissioner was halted last week by the leak of an internal — and incorrect — memo about complaints against him will not be taking the job.

“Thomas Cassella and I have mutually agreed that it is in the best interest of the agency to not move forward with his appointment,” De Sousa said in a statement. “Due to the extreme sensitivity of the content of personnel records, I am not at liberty to discuss the matter further.”

De Sousa said he would appoint someone else to the position “in the near future.”

Cassella, a 23-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department who retired as a major in 2007, most recently was working as director of security at Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore. He also served on Mayor Catherine E. Pugh’s mayoral transition team as a public safety and policing adviser.

He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

De Sousa, who was named acting commissioner by Pugh last month, announced several new appointments for his top command staff last Thursday in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. Cassella was to have served as deputy commissioner of operations, a key role overseeing the day-to-day work of thousands of officers. Andre Bonaparte, another BPD retiree, was named deputy commissioner of support services.

Later Thursday, the local television station Fox 45 published an internal memo, which purportedly listed complaints against Cassella from his time on the police force. The memo purported to say that an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Cassella for alleged race discrimination had been sustained in 2006. It also said what appeared to be an internal disciplinary complaint, for not properly filing a report, was sustained.

On Friday, De Sousa put Cassella’s appointment on hold, citing the memo — which was dated Jan. 26 and addressed to De Sousa from Chief Rodney Hill of the Baltimore Police Office of Professional Responsibility.

On Saturday, De Sousa said the memo was false. He said there was never a sustained discrimination claim, and that what “occurred” to Cassella — in apparent reference to the memo’s release — “was completely unfortunate and unfair.”

On Tuesday, De Sousa referred back to that Saturday statement, saying, “As I mentioned in my statement a few days ago, there is information on the document that was incorrect. I am currently working to address that issue.”

The department has said the leak of the document was illegal and is under investigation. De Sousa has said he is trying to determine how the false information landed on his desk through internal channels.

De Sousa did not elaborate on the memo on Tuesday, noting that personnel records in Maryland are considered private documents.

“The agency will continue to move forward,” De Sousa wrote. “The delay in selection of a permanent Deputy Commissioner has no bearing on our mission to drive down violent crime.”

De Sousa said that until he finds a replacement for Cassella, Bonaparte — whom he named as head of support services — will oversee the operations bureau as well.

In other department moves, De Sousa is decentralizing the two units that investigate shootings and robberies citywide, moving about 80 detectives from headquarters to the city’s nine district stations.

De Sousa made brief mention of the move during a news conference last Friday, and the department said this week that the move would be made over time.

“It is an ongoing process and it will be phased in,” said T.J. Smith, a police spokesman.

Asked why the decision was being made, Smith said: “The commissioner believes it’s more effective with the detectives in the districts.”

The placement of detective units has changed repeatedly over the years, based on the preference of the commissioners who have led the department.

Both the citywide shootings and citywide robbery units were most recently centralized at headquarters by De Sousa’s predecessor, former Commissioner Kevin Davis.

When Davis first arrived in Baltimore in January 2015, it was as deputy commissioner overseeing the Investigations and Intelligence Bureau, which included homicide detectives and district detectives.

After Davis was appointed to lead the agency following then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s firing of Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, Davis reorganized the department multiple times.

He centralized the shooting detectives first, saying they would benefit from sharing intelligence and working “alongside” the homicide unit downtown. Shooting detectives investigate all non-fatal shootings and other discharges of gunfire in which a person is intentionally shooting at someone else for a motive other than robbery.

Robbery detectives — including those who investigate carjackings and street, commercial and bank robberies — were centralized later, in late 2016.

The decentralization of the detective units is one of several organizational decisions made by De Sousa in recent days.

De Sousa also has said he is considering the reversal of other changes made by Davis, including Davis’ decision to disband plainclothes units for drug and gun enforcement. He said he is looking at best practices for plainclothes officers nationwide before making any decisions.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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