The next police commissioner of Baltimore, a city which has struggled to contain and solve its homicides, will come to the job after leading a department that also saw a high murder rate.
Baltimore, which has been dubbed the most dangerous big city in America, has had three police commissioners in three years. The most recent one, Darryl De Sousa, resigned in May after five months on the job because federal prosecutors in Maryland charged him with willfully failing to file income tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Many were hopeful that De Sousa would have been able to turn around the troubled police department, which was plagued with high-profile cases of police criminal misconduct and a scathing report of racially biased policing from federal investigators in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody in 2015.
Harrison, 49, has been a life-long cop who came up through the ranks of the New Orleans Police Department. He comes to the job with experience overseeing a department under a federal consent decree like Baltimore. Reportedly, he never applied for the job in Baltimore because of his commitment to helping New Orleans combat its own crime problems.
The incoming police commissioner notified New Orleans’ Mayor LaToya Cantrell that he was retiring from his position.
“Superintendent Harrison has achieved clear, compelling and consistent results in reducing violent crime, implementing a federally-mandated consent decree, increasing police recruitment, introducing advanced technologies, and deploying proactive and effective policing strategies that reflect 21st century, constitutional policing. He will bring not only significant and relevant experience to addressing the challenges of Baltimore, but the insight and sensitivity needed to reestablish essential trust and confidence of citizens in their police officers,” Cantrell said in a statement.
The number of murders in the city declined in 2018 to the lowest tally since 1971. However, the murder rate was extremely high compared to 1971 because the population declined.
Officials recorded 146 murders in 2018 compared to at least 150 murders in the city every year since 1971, when there were 116 recorded murders. When adjusted for the population decrease, the murder rate was 79 percent higher in 2018 compared to 1971.
The task ahead for Harrison won’t be easy. In 2017, Baltimore had the highest per capita murder rate among the nation’s largest cities.