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The Latest: Baltimore police head fired amid rising crime

BALTIMORE (AP) — The latest on the firing of Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts (all times Eastern):

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8:30 p.m

Chanta Saunders, a 25-year-old woman who was friends with Freddie Gray and witnessed his arrest, said the Baltimore mayor’s decision to fire the city police commissioner was a good one. But Saunders said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake shares as much responsibility as the ex-commissioner, Anthony Batts, for a strained relationship between police and many Baltimore residents.

“He should have been fired,” Saunders said of Batts, who was let go Wednesday. “It’s him and the mayor: she closed the rec centers for our kids and is building juvenile jails instead. He needed to be fired, but so does the mayor.”

Twenty-two-year-old Keonna Stokes, another Baltimore resident, said she was glad to see Batts out. She hopes a new commissioner will have a lower tolerance for police misconduct

“The police wouldn’t do the things they do if the commissioner didn’t allow it,” she said. “He should have been fired. We call the police when we really need them, when people hurt us. But now we don’t call them, because they hurt us. If they didn’t Freddie would still be here.”

Six police officers have been criminally charged in the death of Gray, an unarmed black man who death from injuries last April while in police custody touched off riots.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said a change in police leadership was needed after a recent spike in homicides and in the weeks after Gray’s death.

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7:45 p.m.

Hours after he was fired as Baltimore’s police commissioner, Anthony Batts sent a short statement to the Baltimore Sun.

“I’ve been honored to serve the citizens and residents of Baltimore,” Batts was quoted as telling the newspaper. “I’ve been proud to be a police officer for this city.”

On Wednesday afternoon Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that Batts had been terminated, and that she has installed Kevin Davis, Batts’ former deputy, as interim commissioner. The shakeup, announced amid a spike in violent crime in Baltimore, comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man injured in police custody.

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7:35 p.m.

Anthony Batts was notified that he had been fired as Baltimore police commissioner just 15 minutes before a press release announcing the mayor’s decision was sent to the media.

Sean Naron, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor attended a meeting with Batts at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. That was just 3 1/2 hours after a police spokesman had announced a scheduled 4 p.m. news conference with Batts to discuss an outside review of the department’s response to riots in the city in April. When media representatives began showing up for Batts’ scheduled event, a police spokesman directed them to a City Hall news conference by the mayor to discuss the firing.

The mayor said Wednesday that a change in leadership was needed after a recent spike in homicides and after the death in April of an unarmed black man who died of injuries in police custody — which prompted the rioting.

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7:05 p.m.

Officials in Baltimore say the crime-vexed Maryland city must move quickly after the firing of the top city law enforcement official to strengthen trust been residents and police.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said his conversations with residents and police officers detected a “growing lack of confidence in the direction of our city’s crime-fighting strategy.” He commented Wednesday after the mayor fired Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.

Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for Maryland, said Batts had “faced challenging circumstances and did what he believed was best for the citizens of Baltimore.”

Batts departure came amid a rise in violent crime and 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man injured in police custody.

A police union reiterated concerns from its newly released report detailing “officers’ concerns that the Baltimore Police Department’s response to the riots was lacking in many areas” including basic riot equipment, training and leadership.

Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said the union looked to work with a new interim commissioner to “move both our department and city forward.”

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6:16 p.m.

Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has spoken out in the past following controversy over police use of force.

While serving last summer as chief of Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Police Department, Davis issued a news release disagreeing with the county Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70 over that police union’s decision to donate $1,070 to a defense fund for Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown last August.

Davis said he’d heard from “many outraged citizens” who mistakenly thought the police department was making the donation. He said he attended a local NAACP rally about Ferguson and that “policing in the 21st century requires strong relationships with all of our residents.”

Davis said he didn’t support that union’s action, though he understood a need for due process for Wilson. “There are occasions when a police chief will agree to disagree” with the police union head, Davis said in his statement last summer. “This is one of those of those moments.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appointed Davis as interim commissioner in firing Police Commissioner Anthony Batts on Wednesday. The shakeup of police leadership, announced amid a spike in violent crime in Baltimore, comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots after the death of a man injured in police custody.

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5:40 p.m.

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has had no immediate public comment on his ouster from that key law enforcement post in the major Maryland city.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, speaking at a news conference Wednesday, didn’t discuss specific departure terms only hours after announcing Batts’ firing. And Batts didn’t attend the news conference, in which the mayor publicly discuss the dismissal and was joined by her newly named interim chief.

Batts had been scheduled to give a 4 p.m. news conference on the start of an outside review of the police department. But media members arriving for that event were met by a police spokesman, who directed them instead to the mayor’s news conference starting at 4:15 p.m.

Batts’ contract with the city paid him $190,000 annually and was to run through June 2020. It includes a provision for severance payment equal to his annual salary if he’s terminated without cause.

Wednesday’s shakeup comes amid rising crime and just 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man injured in police custody.

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5:10 p.m.

The new interim commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, Kevin Davis, has only been with the department since January. He says he aims to build up community relationships and bringing down levels of violent crime.

“My focuses for the future are pretty simple. It’s all about the crime fight and the relationship with our community,” he said at a news conference Wednesday.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appointed Davis as interim commissioner in firing Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. Wednesday’s shakeup comes amid rising crime and just 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man injured in police custody.

Previously, Davis was police chief in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and assistant chief in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He joined the Prince George’s department in 1992 and worked his way up the ranks.

He led the department in the Maryland community of Anne Arundel for a year and half, coming in after political scandals involving a county executive and a police chief. The son of a retired police officer, Davis is from College Park, Maryland.

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4:45 p.m.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who appointed Anthony Batts as police commissioner in 2012, says he served that Maryland city “with distinction.” But the mayor, in speaking publicly about Batts’ firing at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, cited a spike in crime and a need for a leadership change.

Batts had more than three decades of experience in law enforcement, according to his biography on the Baltimore Police Department website. That included serving as chief of police in Long Beach, California, and Oakland, California. He began his career in 1982 as an officer with the Long Beach department, working his way up to chief over a 20-year span.

Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has been appointed as interim commissioner. The shakeup comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man who was injured in police custody.

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4:38 p.m.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has thanked Anthony Batts for his service as police commissioner to her city. Yet she said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that “too many” continue to die on Baltimore streets, speaking of her decision to remove the city’s top crime fighter.

She says her intent is to make Baltimore a safer place. “We cannot continue to have the level of violence we’ve seen,” she added, noting that some progress has been made.

She added, “We need a change.”

Of the firing, she says: “This was not an easy decision but it is one that is in the best interest of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better and we’re going to get better,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, the mayor announced Batts’ firing in a news release. The police commissioner’s departure comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man who was injured in police custody.

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4:05 p.m.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she has fired Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of a man injured in police custody.

Rawlings-Blake announced her decision in a three-paragraph news release that also noted she has named Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis as interim commissioner.

Rawlings did not immediately give a reason, but the move comes amid a spike in the city’s homicide rate.

Baltimore was rocked with civil unrest in late April after black resident Freddie Gray died one week after suffering a critical spinal injury in police custody. Six police officers have been criminally charged in Gray’s death.

Since the rioting stopped, the city has seen a sharp increase in violence, with 155 homicides this year, a 48 percent increase over the same period last year.

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