As reported by The Sun, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts asked on Wednesday whether or not his firing is representative of what could be a regular tactic, "where police don't feel supported, so they allow the crime rate to go up, and the reformers lose their jobs."
It's remarkable that Batts, who certainly would have been in a position to know, claims the police allowed the crime rate to go up to take him out. Given that the the particular kind of crime going up was murder, this is an astounding charge.
Batts' firing did seem like a coup executed by Gene Ryan, president of the FOP 3, which represents Baltimore police officers, and the response of police to peaceful protesters on Wednesday seemed to indicate that Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis will not follow Batts' playbook.
Beginning at the large protests last fall, where police departments around the country came out in riot gear, the Baltimore Police did not. The department, under Batts, insisted that it would recognize the First Amendment rights of the citizens and protect their right to protest—allowing protesters to block roads for rather extended periods. Even through the beginning of the Uprising last spring, police officers seemed to be relatively low-key—and once they came out with the riot gear, things went bad. It was only after police donned the armor and shields that things got ugly at Camden Yards, and the events at Mondawmin Mall seem to have kicked off when hundreds of kids taking public transportation, which was ordered to stop at the mall, found several phalanxes of police in riot gear waiting.
Under Davis on Wednesday, police came out in over-the-top riot gear. The protest was almost immediately called illegal when it reached the Inner Harbor and people were told to disperse. Davis' department will not tolerate the blockage of city streets. It's not exactly clear what happened in the arrest of activist Kwame Rose, but the image of two fat bald white cops on top of him—one with a Taser to his back—is indelible.
In his comments to The Sun, Batts noted the "visceral hatred for the uniform" in the city and the deep racial divides. His remarks seemed to come right on cue. As much as many protesters, activists, and residents disliked Batts, they were most likely mistaken in lauding his firing. It came on the very day of the FOP report on the mishandling of the protests and uprising. It seems like what the rank and file wanted was a hard-liner who would not question them and who would let them crack heads.
"They want—anything they do—for the chiefs to stand up and say 'My guys are right,'" Batts said in The Sun article.
The new leadership has a big incentive to do this—fall in line, or get fired.
Unsuprisingly, Ryan dismissed Batts' comments and came to the defense of Davis after The Sun's story ran.
"Officers did not 'take a knee' as Batts stated last night. He is right that our members felt unsupported by our leadership, though," his statement read. "We are headed in the right direction under Commissioner Davis and wish former Commissioner Batts well."