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Baltimore’s Bad Cops Are Nearly Un-Fireable –– For Now

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh called the Maryland legislature to streamline the firing process for bad cops Wednesday, claiming Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa doesn’t have the authority to fire his own officers.

Pugh’s request would require the Maryland Assembly to create a city-specific exception from the state’s police disciplinary laws for Baltimore, Police One reported Thursday. Under the current structure, a police trial board must convict an officer before he can face any punishment or firing, a cumbersome process put in place by police unions. Jurisdictions across the country have struggled to fire bad acting and even criminal cops due to the strength of police unions.

“It’s fair, it’s balanced, it protects the officer, but at the same time it gives the commissioner the authority the commissioner needs,” City Solicitor Andre Davis told reporters.

Lt. Gene Ryan, the president of Baltimore’s lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, called Pugh’s suggestion “totally ridiculous.” Baltimore’s Police Department struggled under scandal throughout 2017 as nine officers pleaded guilty or were convicted of planting drugs on crime scenes and selling confiscated contraband back onto the streets. Pugh fired former-Commissioner Kevin Davis in January followed by the resignations of two of his top deputies.

Most of the officers implicated in the corruption scandal were members of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF). At least eight officers have been accused or indicted for planting drugs on crime scenes or racketeering. The investigation has forced the department and city prosecutors to reconsider more than 850 criminal cases that the officers may have corrupted with their involvement.

Former Detective Maurice Ward testified Tuesday that the GTTF would routinely carry BB guns in their vehicles just in case they needed to plant one on a crime scene. Ward testified to other shocking acts of corruption by the GTTF as well.

City violence has skyrocketed amid the police scandals as well, with Baltimore suffering 343 murders in 2017, a record rate with the city’s shrinking population. Pugh cited the surge in violence when she fired Davis and replaced him with Deputy Commissioner Darryl De Sousa.

“Crime is now spilling out all over the city, and we’ve got to focus. I am charging De Sousa and his staff to get on top of it to reduce the numbers and to reduce them quickly,” Pugh said at a news conference. “The fact is, we are not achieving the pace of progress that our residents have every right to expect in the weeks since we ended what was nearly a record year for homicides in the city of Baltimore.”

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