As Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa resigned Tuesday morning, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill into law that will launch a new investigation into whether senior officials in the agency knew of recent corruption scandals before they went public.
The new law establishes a commission with subpoena power to probe potential misconduct in the Baltimore Police Department that may have been connected to convictions of eight members of the Gun Trace Task Force on federal corruption charges.
During the federal trial of two of the task force officers earlier this year, prosecutors described the elite police squad as acting as "both cops and robbers" who used their power to steal large sums of money from residents.
The soon-to-be-established Commission to Restore Trust in Policing will investigate which police supervisors knew of the unit's malfeasance and when they knew it. The commission will also investigate what, if anything, the supervisors did in response.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the bill, said he was glad to see Hogan sign the measure into law: "Now the real work begins."
The commission must file a preliminary report on its findings by the end of this year and a final report by the end of 2019.
The seven-member commission will include two members appointed by Hogan, two by House Speaker Michael Busch and two by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, plus a chairperson jointly appointed by the three state leaders. The group will be staffed by the state's Department of Legislative Services and Office of Legislative Audits, and by contractors hired to help with the work.
Ferguson learned of De Sousa's resignation from another lawmaker as he stood behind Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch for the ceremonial signing of the bill.
"Now more than ever, this is essential for Baltimore," he said of the commission. "The goal is to get to the truth. That's what's most important."
De Sousa has not been connected to the Gun Trace Task Force investigation. A 30-year veteran of the city police department, he took the helm of the agency in January, when Mayor Catherine Pugh fired Commissioner Kevin Davis, citing high levels of violence.
Federal prosecutors charged De Sousa last week with three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal taxes. De Sousa, 53, willfully failed to file federal tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015 despite having been a salaried employee of the Police Department in those years, prosecutors said.
After those charges were unsealed, De Sousa admitted he did not file federal returns — as well as state taxes — for the three years. He said he filed taxes for 2016 and received an extension for 2017.
Federal prosecutors have also issued two subpoenas to the police and finance departments seeking De Sousa's financial and personnel records dating back a decade. The subpoenas came after he was charged with the tax violations.