Baltimore police replace leadership in downtown district

City police announced another shake-up of senior staff Monday, replacing both the recently appointed head of the high-profile downtown district and the longer-tenured leader in troubled West Baltimore.

Maj. William Marcus will take over from Maj. Martin Bartness in the Central District, police said, just months after Bartness took over in a broader reshuffling. Maj. Osborne Robinson will replace Maj. Robert Smith in the Western District, where homicides and shootings are up substantially over last year.

The moves continue Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts' efforts to reshape the Baltimore Police Department after taking over nearly a year ago.

In early July, police assigned Bartness to lead the Central District, replacing Melissa Hyatt, who was promoted to lieutenant colonel and area commander.

Marcus, who was promoted as part of Monday's moves, served as captain under Bartness in the Central District, which includes downtown and the Inner Harbor and Mount Vernon neighborhoods.

Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said Bartness would move to the department's Bureau of Professional Standards — a division that includes internal affairs — to help strengthen the new bureau. Batts created the unit in January.

Baltimore City Council member William H. Cole IV, who represents the district, said he had a "great relationship" with Bartness but said he had no problems with the change.

"It certainly wasn't presented to me as being any dissatisfaction with Major Bartness," he said. "It was simply about moving their pieces around. To me, this is to be expected. It's a new commissioner trying to put in his team, and it's going to take a while."

Cole acknowledged that the district is "exceptionally challenging" because of the high-profile events in the area — including the Grand Prix of Baltimore and last week's NFL-sponsored nationally televised Keith Urban concert in the Inner Harbor.

The region also presents logistical and staffing challenges because it can swell with several hundred thousand visitors in a day. While nonfatal shootings and robberies remain even in the district compared with the same time last year, police statistics released last week showed that homicides are up 45 percent.

Cole said Marcus has already proven himself as a "no-nonsense guy" with a good rapport with neighborhood associations and business groups.

"I think he'll be great," Cole said. "He's no stranger to Central. He's well-known and well-respected. I think he'll be perfectly fine and he's already well-prepared for the job."

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore said Marcus "has a good understanding of the district and a good working relationship with us and the other community partners," according to a spokesman, Michael Evitts.

"Downtown has benefited from quality policing, and we have no reason to believe that will change," Evitts said.

In West Baltimore, Robinson was promoted to major as part of the reassignment. He had served as a captain in the Northeast District.

In the first four months of this year, more than 30 percent of all city homicides were reported in the Western District, which caused several community meetings and increased deployments of foot patrols.

Police statistics show that 31 homicides have occurred in the district this year, 82 percent more than at this time last year. Nonfatal shootings are up 18 percent in the district. This summer, five people were wounded in a shooting in the Harlem Park neighborhood while another shooting involving seven victims, including a slain 15-year-old, occurred in Franklin Square.

Smith, who took over the Western District last year, becomes night-watch commander, overseeing evening and overnight police operations. That position was held by Maj. Johnny Delgado, who was assigned the post in early July after overseeing the Northwestern District for years.

Delgado will now head up the police's Property Section, which involves upkeep of police stations and vehicles, Kowalczyk said.

Two other reassignments were announced: Mark Howe, a lieutenant in the Special Operation Section, was promoted to captain and assigned to replace Marcus in the Central District. Milton Snead also was promoted to captain and assigned to the Northeastern District after serving as a lieutenant who led the detective unit in the same district.

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