Baltimore Police union president Gene Ryan ousted by homicide sergeant

Baltimore Police Sgt. Michael Mancuso was elected the next president of the city police union Monday night, ousting Lt. Gene Ryan, who has held the position since 2014, during which the department faced numerous challenges, including constant leadership turnover, rising crime and scandals.

Mancuso, a 30-year-veteran of the department currently assigned to the homicide section, will be sworn in during a union meeting on Oct. 22.

In an interview Tuesday, Ryan said of his tenure, “I had a great time. It was a pleasure and an honor serving the membership.”

But he said his four years as president saw unprecedented challenges. “This has been a rough four years without a doubt. It’s definitely been challenging,” he said, noting the trials for the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in 2015. He also served he federal racketeering convictions of eight officers on the now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force.

The union raised money to pay for their legal bills and other expenses, and provided additional support, he said. Ryan was with the officers throughout and described the toll it took on them.

“It was a very traumatic experience” for the officers, he said.

Ryan, whose been with the department for 35 years, was first elected in first vice president in 2008, and president in 2014. He said Mancuso will be a great leader for the union, and plans to take time off to be with his family. He said he hasn’t decided whether he will return to patrol.

Mancuso did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Over the past four years, Ryan has also worked with four different police commissioners. Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration is currently reviewing more than 40 applications to name a new commissioner, which is expected next month.

Ryan has also led the union’s contract negotiations with the city, which remain unresolved. Officers have been operating under a short-term contract reached in April.

Former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who led the department from July 2015 to January 2018, said the change in direction for the union likely reflects its membership’s frustration with the long-stalled contract negotiations.

Mancuso, he said, will have a more visible and outspoken presence than Ryan, who took a more subdued approach to the job than some of his predecessors. Davis described Mancuso as a “cop’s cop” who speaks his mind.

“I think Mike Mancuso is much more comfortable being a little more outspoken and developing the relationships he needs to develop with city council members and the mayor, as well as the leadership of the police department,” Davis said Tuesday. “I think Mike’s style will be different than Gene.”

Davis, who worked with union leaders in three Maryland counties during his law enforcement career, cautioned that outspoken union presidents don’t always get results.

“It sometimes makes the membership feel good if their leadership is willing to speak out against the commissioner, mayor or council, but you have to do that sparingly or you risk damaging necessary relationships,” Davis said.

During his tenure, Ryan was a vocal opponent of placing citizens on trial boards that hear claims of wrongdoing against officers, which has been a key goal for activists in the city.

“For a civilian to sit and judge a police officer, they need to have the training” and don’t have a bias against law enforcement, he said. The proceedings, he said, should be fair.

Trial boards consist of three police officers who can recommend discipline against an officer, including a firing, though the police commissioner has final say.

In recent years, citizen-recorded videos and police body camera footage have captured a number of officers accused of misconduct. Last month, a viral video showed a city officer tackling and beating a man, fracturing his jaw and ribs. Officer Arthur Williams resigned and has been charged with assault and misconduct.

Ryan told The Sun in August that there might be more to the story, but that “at first view” the video of the incident showed “inexcusable behavior” on the part of the officer that the department “can’t tolerate.”

On Tuesday, Ryan said the job can be a tough balancing act, between representing officers’ needs but also answering to police department leaders, politicians and the public. When some officers are found to have committed misconduct, he said they must be held accountable.

Noting the GTTF officers, he said, “not everyone belongs at this job. You can’t be afraid to standing up for what’s right. It’s a heck of a fence to walk on.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this article.

tprudente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/tim_prudente

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