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Rawlings-Blake on Batts: 'I support the commissioner'

Rawlings-Blake on Batts: 'I support the commissioner'
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city police commissioner Anthony Batts during an October news conference. Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reaffirmed her confidence in Baltimore's police commissioner Wednesday – as she has steadfastly done even as city's seen the one of its deadliest months in decades.

Rawlings-Blake declined to say whether she had considered firing Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, telling reporters at a news conference: "I support the commissioner."

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The violence has continued this month, as a 16-year-old girl was among those killed. So far this year, 128 people have been killed, up from 89 at the this time last year.

Forty-two of those homicides occurred in May. The last time the city had as many homicides was August 1990.

Rawlings-Blake also was asked whether she questions the training city officers receive. Batts and others, including the police union, have said there's confusion in the ranks over the legal risks officers face when making arrests.

The questions stem from the April death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old died a week after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. Six officers have been charged in his death.

"There are several reasons that they are concerned," Rawlings-Blake said of the officers. "I wouldn't suggest that their training is the reason for that."

The mayor said a lot of officers are trying to "jive their training with the charges that were brought, and that work to bring that understanding is being done." The commissioner is educating the force and clarifying questions about the policies and procedures governing when it is appropriate to make an arrest, she said.

"Those are the things the police commissioner is committed to working on," Rawlings-Blake said, "so that we're in one accord with the Police Department and the State's Attorney's Office."

Rawlings-Blake said she will withhold any judgment about the officer's training until she has more information.

"A lot of the things that are coming out of the case are different than the training," she said. "I don't necessarily say I should question the training, because the case hasn't been adjudicated yet."

Rawlings-Blake tapped Batts to take over the department in 2012, saying she wanted "a commissioner that was committed to reform."

"The commission has put in place a significant amount of reform that has led to reductions in the number of discourtesy complaints against the Police Department, the number of excessive force complaints, the number of police-involved shootings, the number of cases brought against the Police Department for wrongful death – all are going down," she said.

"That's what happens when you bring a reformer into town," she said. "Clearly, there is much more work that needs to be done, and I support the commissioner in doing that work."

ywenger@baltsun.com

twitter.com/yvonnewenger

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