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Mayor plans to offer Davis contract with significant severance package

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants to make interim commissioner Kevin Davis the city's next permanent police chief.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants to make interim commissioner Kevin Davis the city's next permanent police chief. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to offer interim police Commissioner Kevin Davis a contract with a significant severance package if he's confirmed as Baltimore's next police chief.

Under the terms of the deal, Davis would be paid $200,000 annually through June 30, 2020, if the City Council agrees to remove his "interim" title. He would be eligible to receive 75 percent of one-year's salary — at least $150,000 — if a new mayor should fire him without cause.

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Davis is scheduled to appear at a confirmation hearing before a key City Council committee Wednesday. The council has the authority to confirm Davis' hiring, but has no say over the details of his contact. The contract requires a vote by the Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Rawlings-Blake.

"I've been pleased with what I have seen so far, particularly the collaborative approach he has brought to the department," Rawlings-Blake said. "It's clear he is a cop's cop and has the respect and confidence of the rank and file. I am hopeful he will have a smooth confirmation."

Councilman Nick Mosby, who is considering a mayoral run, said he's supportive of Davis' bid for permanent status as police chief, but criticized the severance package as "completely unacceptable, ridiculous and fiscally irresponsible."

"He's shown a worthiness that he is the person for the job and should have a shot to develop a sustainable solution to violent crime in Baltimore," Mosby said. "But having a golden parachute makes no sense."

Davis' contract also would permit him to receive annual raises if rank-and-file police officers get raises. If Davis were to be fired for cause, he would receive no severance payment.

The Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon, who frequently protests alleged police brutality, said he believes Rawlings-Blake should not tie a future mayor to paying severance to Davis. Rawlings-Blake has said she is not seeking re-election next year.

"It's unfair for a lame-duck mayor to be able to tie the hands of a new administration," Witherspoon said. "I'm hoping the council voices opposition."

Asked by The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday, a majority of City Council members said they supported making Davis the permanent chief.

Davis has been acting commissioner since July. Nine of the full council's 15 members said Tuesday they were prepared to vote for Davis.

"He's making the right moves," City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said. "Once he gets his team in place, we're going to see some good things."

Councilman Eric T. Costello called Davis "a smart guy with a lot of humility."

"He understands community policing," Costello said. "I think he's the right guy for the job. Point blank: The city needs him."

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the public safety committee, said he initially opposed Davis' hiring, but the interim commissioner has won him over.

"My attitude has changed," Scott said. "We can't have an organization that is critical for our city ... without an official leader for that long. Businesses don't go without a CEO for a year and a half. We have to make a decision and move forward."

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Davis took over as interim commissioner after Rawlings-Blake fired Commissioner Anthony W. Batts. Batts was about a year into his six-year term. If confirmed, Davis would get a contract for the rest of Batts' term.

Davis has taken the helm of the Police Department amid a violent crime spike. Shootings are up by 77 percent, compared with last year, while homicides are up by 49 percent and robberies by 18 percent.

Davis has proposed mandatory "foot patrol" training for all officers, history courses for all new officers on race relations and city faith communities, better recruiting of city residents, and stronger incentives to get current officers to move into the city and veterans to remain on the force.

He declined to be interviewed for this article.

Davis has previously served as chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department before being pushed out amid a political transition there. Before that, he worked in the Prince George's County Police Department.

Among those planning to testify before the council committee Wednesday is Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who is supportive of Davis.

"Kevin did a great job here," said Barry Stanton, a top aide to Baker who oversees public safety in Prince George's. "He knows how to work with the community, and he knows how to work with the media. He takes a strong approach to policing. He sets a goal and he sticks to it. Kevin will do a great job for Baltimore City."

City Solicitor George Nilson said police commissioners and fire chiefs have traditionally had severance payments as part of their contracts, unlike civilian employees.

Batts, who had been making about $202,000 per year, received $190,000 in severance plus a payment for unused leave under the terms of his contract.

The previous commissioner, Frederick H. Bealefeld III, had a severance package with payouts that ranged from $75,000 to $225,000. He chose to retire and received no severance.

City Councilman Carl Stokes, who is running for mayor, said he's undecided about whether to vote to confirm Davis.

"As best as I can tell, he's doing a good job," Stokes said. "But I don't know if I'm ready to sign him up for five more years. Crime is still at a high. They may be intending to kill one person, but they're shooting everybody. I need to see a better plan."

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