Best Fall Guy: Anthony Batts

Baltimore’s most professionally distinguished police commissioner in many years—his Ph.D. gleaming like his spit-shined shoes—inherited a department with stark divisions and deep troubles, from regular and ongoing brutality cases to curious losses of evidence and the sense, in many communities, that the police do not have public safety front of their minds as they patrol. Batts commissioned a “Strategic Plan for Improvement” and tried to reform the department through many academically approved “best practices” (training was revamped and the command structure reorganized), but Baltimore City’s culture is famously resistant to that sort of thing. Particularly when a mayor needs a fall guy. So brutality complaints may have been down, but The Sun’s series on brutality settlements—most of them cases from before Batts took command—made it seem otherwise. And the scandals kept happening—with cops brutally murdering dogs, their domestic partners, and suspects. And then the riot happened. Batts’ two-and-a-half-year tenure was focused on optics, and ultimately his boss’ optics were what mattered most.

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