A veteran Baltimore police officer was promoted to be the city’s new police commissioner Friday morning as the city looked to an HBCU graduate to help stem its record-setting murder rate that has lingered into the new year.
Darryl DeSousa’s promotion up the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) ranks could be seen as an unenviable position, considering the abrupt firing of his predecessor and the seemingly never-ending violence that has a tight grip on the city. But the Morgan State University alumnus said he was up to the task, and then some.
“Baltimore has long been my home and I’ve spent my career on its streets and in its neighborhoods to address problems and bring about solutions that are meaningful for the people we serve,” DeSousa said in a statement. “I am committed to this important work more than ever and look forward to validating the trust of Mayor Pugh, my fellow officers and most importantly, the citizens of Baltimore each and every day.”
There were 343 murders in Baltimore last year, which equals just about 56 deaths for every 100,000 people, CBS News reported. For perspective’s sake, there are about 615,000 people living in Baltimore, and 65 percent of them are Black, according to the most recent Census statistics. There have already been at least 11 murders in Baltimore in the first 19 days of the year, according to data compiled by the Baltimore Sun.
Those sky rocketing numbers led to Kevin Davis, the now-former Baltimore police commissioner, to be fired just before DeSousa’s promotion was announced, according to local news outlet WBAL.
DeSousa, a member of the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Professionals who was until Friday serving as deputy police commissioner, may be just the person Baltimore needs. He has been central in BPD’s community outreach efforts, such as a program “where officers will get manicures and pedicures with young women and haircuts with young men … to have more conversations with young people,” the Baltimore Sun wrote about DeSousa in December. He has also championed innovative ways to investigate crimes though technology.
The 53-year-old New York City native, who has called Baltimore home since 1988, has worked in a number of capacities on the force, including undercover on the streets. That work history should serve him well in his new role, according to former Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Anthony Barksdale.
“You need someone who understands what the cop at the bottom, the patrol officer, the detectives are going through if he’s going to try to reduce this crime,” Barksdale told the Baltimore Sun. “I remember when he was commanding the Northeast District, listening to him on the radio, and thinking to myself, ‘He’s got it.’”