Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis commented on ways his department is working to improve public safety and reduce violent crime in Baltimore following a historic year.
Davis made his remarks to more than 60 Greater Baltimore Committee members at the GBC’s Newsmaker Breakfast series event on February 18.
Davis was named Baltimore’s Interim Police Commissioner in July 2015 and confirmed as police commissioner by the Baltimore City Council three months later. He previously served as the Chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
At the GBC event Davis focused his remarks on public safety and challenges the department faces.
Last fall the Baltimore Police Department launched its body-worn cameras pilot program in three districts. The pilot program was well received by police officers and the community, Davis said.
“It’s one of those unique things,” he said. “Everybody loves them for different reasons.”
One reason is because of accountability, Davis said. Department-wide use of the technology is expected later this year.
Once officers are outfitted with the cameras, the Baltimore Police Department will be the largest department in the United States with the technology, Davis said.
“We need to police in a better and a different way,” Davis said. “We have to work better with other aspects of city government, state government to make our communities more livable.”
Baltimore’s next police academy class will graduate with 40 hours of community foot patrol training, Davis said. Their first 90 days on the job will be spent on foot patrol throughout the city to experience Baltimore’s diverse neighborhoods.
In addition, community foot patrol is also being taught as part of the academic curriculum for in-service training with senior police officers, he said.
Davis also discussed his crime fighting strategy, which includes a focus on those who are prone to violence.
Approximately 618 of Baltimore’s 620,000 residents are violent repeat offenders and responsible for the majority of the city’s violence, Davis said. Furthermore, last year’s spike in violence can be traced to members of the Black Guerilla Family gang and last spring’s civil unrest.
During the unrest 30 pharmacies were looted and approximately 288,000 doses of prescription medication was taken from those pharmacies and ended up on Baltimore’s streets, Davis said.
“When those 288,000 doses of prescription drugs hit the streets, there was a scramble to possess those prescription pills amongst the gang community,” said Davis, who noted this resulted in gang violence.
Davis also addressed recent news reports that the number of arrests made by Baltimore police officers since 2005 is down 48 percent, Davis said. This is largely due to the decriminalization of marijuana, not a slowdown in the number of arrests being made.
One of the department’s challenges is where police officers choose to live, said Davis, who noted only 21 percent of officers reside in Baltimore. He said the percentage of Baltimore County police officers who live in that jurisdiction is even lower.
Police officers should be provided incentives to live in the city, such as tax breaks for renting or purchasing a home, Davis said.
“We want the youth in our community to see cops in the city not wearing a uniform, not doing police work but otherwise they know they’re police officers because they are coaches, because they volunteer in the community,” Davis said. “That’s the big reason why we want cops to live in the city.”
Recruiting and retaining police officers is a challenge in Baltimore and across the country.
“The profession has some significant challenges right now,” he said, “and it’s not unique to Baltimore.”
View photos from the event here.
The GBC’s next Newsmaker series event is with Towson University President Dr. Kim Schatzel on March 17, 2016. Learn more and register to attend.