BALTIMORE (CBS/AP) — The Baltimore mayor fired the troubled city’s police commissioner Wednesday, saying that a recent spike in homicide rates weeks after a black man died of injuries in police custody required a change in leadership.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thanked Police Commissioner, and former Oakland Police Chief, Anthony Batts for his service and announced that she was appointing Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis as interim commissioner.
“We need a change,” Rawlings-Blake told a news conference. “This was not an easy decision but it is one that is in the best interest of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better and we’re going to get better.”
The firing comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of Freddie Gray, who died in April of injuries he received in police custody. Six police officers have been criminally charged in Gray’s death.
After the violence, arrests in the city plummeted and the city’s homicide rate spiked. The most recent violence happened Tuesday night, when gunmen jumped out of two vans and fired at a group of people a few blocks from an urban university campus, killing three people. A fourth person sought treatment for a gunshot wound to the buttocks and was in stable condition.
Police said Wednesday that the shooting wasn’t random, but no arrests have been made.
On Tuesday, the police department announced that an outside organization will review the department’s response to the civil unrest that followed Gray’s death. Most of the unrest took place on April 27, prompted by Gray’s death on April 19. In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights review of the department, and Batts has been criticized by the Baltimore police union.
Rawlings-Blake appointed Batts as police commissioner in September 2012. One year earlier he quit his job in Oakland, just weeks before Occupy Oakland demonstrators pitched tents in front of Oakland City Hall.
Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan drew criticism for her response to the occupation of Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Batts later went on record saying that he would have handled the encampment similar to how the Los Angeles Police Department handled Occupy Los Angeles. “When they moved in they had a very well-organized, well-planned operation,” Batts told the Oakland Tribune. “And everybody went home OK.”
TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. The Associated Press contributed to this report.