Baltimore mayor suspends police commissioner after tax charges

Baltimore mayor suspends police commissioner after tax charges

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Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was appointed in January. (Baltimore Police Department)

BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s mayor said on Friday afternoon that she has placed the city’s police commissioner on paid leave, the day after it was disclosed that he is facing federal charges of failing to file federal tax returns for three years.

“Upon review of the circumstances surrounding Commissioner Darryl De Sousa’s failure to file tax returns for successive years, I have placed him on paid suspension, effective immediately,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement posted online.

Pugh had said on Thursday that she had “full confidence” in him. But the Baltimore police union and some Maryland lawmakers had called on the mayor to suspend the commissioner until his tax issues are resolved.

On Tuesday the U.S. Attorney for Maryland charged De Sousa with three misdemeanor charges of failing to file federal tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $25,000 fine.

A judge unsealed the charges on Thursday. An initial court appearance has not been scheduled.

De Sousa apologized for his transgressions on Thursday. He admitted he did not file federal or state taxes for those three years. But he said he filed taxes for the 2016 tax year and received an extension for 2017.

“There is no excuse for my failure to fulfill my obligations as a citizen and public official,” De Sousa said in a statement on Twitter. “My only explanation is that I failed to sufficiently prioritize my personal affairs.”

He went on to say: “I accept full responsibility for this mistake and am committed to resolving this situation as quickly as possible.”

On Thursday Pugh had expressed support for De Sousa.

Mayor Catherine Pugh

“As Commissioner De Sousa has explained, he made a mistake in not filing his taxes for the years in question. He is working to resolve this matter and has assured me that he will do so as quickly as possible,” Pugh said in a statement Thursday. “I have full confidence in Darryl De Sousa in his capacity as Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department and trust that he will continue to focus on our number one priority of reducing violence.”

But Maryland Sen. Bill Ferguson called the charges against De Sousa “a breach of trust and a severe distraction” for the city.

State Del. Luke Clippinger also was not appeased by the commissioner’s mea culpa. Clippinger called on the mayor to suspend De Sousa while his tax charges are pending.

The pressure on the mayor and the commissioner increased as the day progressed. Late Thursday, the police union called on De Sousa to “do the right thing by taking a leave of absence.” The Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #3, pointed out that rank-and-file officers who face misdemeanor charges are usually suspended with pay pending the outcome of the charges, and that the commissioner should be held to the same standard.

A statement posted on the union’s Twitter page by President Gene Ryan on Thursday said in part: “While Mayor Pugh has determined that it is not in the best interest of the City to ask for his resignation, we feel very strongly that it is in the interest of the Baltimore Police Department to ask that Commissioner De Sousa relieve himself of his duties, effective immediately, until this matter is resolved.”

Pugh made no further comment about the matter until her announcement Friday afternoon that she had suspended De Sousa.

Pugh appointed the 30-year veteran of the police department and graduate of Morgan State University in January. Former commissioner Kevin Davis was fired amid the city’s soaring homicide rate.

Last year, a record 343 people were killed in Baltimore, which has a population of nearly 622,000. In comparison, there were 211 slayings in the city in 2014. Many people have blamed the police for the surge in violence, saying that many officers have taken a hands-off approach to crime in retaliation for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charging six officers in the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Gray, 25, was fatally injured in the back of a police van.

Gray’s death set off riots in the city that made international news. The uprisings led the governor to declare a state of emergency and summon the National Guard as well as institute a nighttime curfew. Three of the police officers were acquitted and Mosby dropped the charges against the remaining three.

Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle will serve as acting commissioner during De Sousa’s suspension, the mayor’s statement said.

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