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Panel that will investigate Baltimore Police Det. Suiter's death to be named soon, commissioner said

Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said Wednesday he is close to signing an agreement with a six-member panel — including two former Baltimore police detectives — to investigate the unsolved death last year of Det. Sean Suiter.

De Sousa said he has a memorandum of understanding with the former detectives “sitting on my desk right now” to investigate the fatal shooting of Suiter — one of the few unsolved killings of a police officer in the Baltimore department’s history.

“What I can say is it’s going to be two former Baltimore City police detectives,” De Sousa told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday. He said the detectives were “well respected” in the field. “When I share the names you’ll understand what I’m saying.”

The police chief said the two former detectives will be joined by “a few other outside police leaders.”

“I added up the years of the six members on the panel,” he said. “It was 220 years of law enforcement experience.”

De Sousa said he hoped to finalize the agreement with the investigators “in the next couple of days” and bring in the outside panel next week.

He said he would not provide more information until the agreement was finalized. He did not say who would be named to the panel, how long they would work or how much they would be paid.

“The mandate is for them to take a look at the case, come up with findings and come up with recommendations,” De Sousa said.

Suiter was shot at about 4:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in a vacant lot in the 900 block of Bennett Place in Harlem Park. It was the day before he was to give testimony before a federal grand jury investigating Baltimore’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. Police have said Suiter was not a target of that investigation.

His death has been the subject of much debate within the police department. Some believe the detective killed himself. Others say he was killed.

The state medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, not a suicide.

De Sousa and Mayor Catherine E. Pugh outlined their policing strategies during the media briefing Wednesday at City Hall.

After three straight years of more than 300 homicides, the city is beginning to see crime decline.

Homicides have fallen 27 percent to begin 2018. Violent crime has dropped by 20 percent.

Pugh’s budget for the next fiscal year includes funding for 100 new officer positions and more money for the anti-violence Safe Streets program. She also included money to help fund an intervention program for boys and young men called Roca and extra services in seven Violence Reduction Initiative Zones throughout the city.

De Sousa said he’s deploying a mobile command vehicle to parts of the city where violence is most intense.

“We’re definitely trending in the direction we want,” De Sousa said of crime. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The commissioner also described more technologies his officers will soon be using.

Starting in June, De Sousa said, the Baltimore Police Department will begin employing crime analysts in East and West Baltimore, who will use “crime forecasting software” to predict where criminal activity will occur and position patrol officers there. He said a computer algorithm will tell officers how long to monitor a location.

“The crime analysts will direct the officers per shift, telling them where to go,” he said. “The whole concept behind the crime forecasting software is to tell us where to go before the crime occurs.”

The predictive policing strategy was created by Sean Malinowski, a deputy chief in Los Angeles, who has built a national reputation as a math-saavy police commander. Part statistician, part crime fighter, he has spent the past year helping Chicago police open high-tech “nerve centers” in violent neighborhoods.

Computers in those centers predict retaliatory shootings and transmit reports of gunfire to patrol officers. Those reports hit officers’ cellphones an average of three minutes before the first 911 call, Chicago police say.

Predictive policing has won over police chiefs around the country, but also stirred debate among civil libertarians.

De Sousa said he hopes to allay any community concerns over predictive policing by sharing the algorithms the analysts will be using with the community.

“We’re going to be completely transparent about what those algorithms are,” he said.

Pugh said she heard about predictive policing while researching which police departments in other cities were being successful.

“The reduction in violence in Chicago has been attributed to these types of centers,” she said.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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