In an attempt to slow armed crime in Baltimore, where more than 300 people a year have been murdered since 2015, police carry out buy-backs of street weapons, paying people to turn in their guns (Jim WATSON)
Washington (AFP) – The crime-racked US city of Baltimore got a new police chief on Monday, tasked with curbing a soaring murder rate and stamping out corruption within the force.
Michael Harrison, 49, previously commanded the New Orleans police department, where he had also served on the narcotics unit and in internal affairs, the department that investigates police officers themselves.
Harrison replaced Kevin Davis, who was sacked in January 2018 for failing to curb crime after 342 homicides were recorded in the city in a single year.
Davis’ former deputy Darryl De Sousa had been named as his successor, but he too was forced out over a tax-evasion scandal.
Harrison, who was introduced by mayor Catherine Pugh on Monday, is to face a confirmation hearing in front of the city council on March 4.
His main task will be to lower crime in the Maryland port city, which has since 2015 experienced more than 300 murders a year, making it one of the most violent US urban centers.
The city was convulsed by violence in 2015 following the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, who died of spinal injuries sustained while he was being transported in a police van.
Harrison will also be responsible for cleaning house within the ranks of his new force, after an internal probe last year revealed that officers in a taskforce designed to seize illegal street weapons had gone rogue, reselling guns and drugs they had impounded and stealing cash from people’s homes.
He will also have to smooth relations between the police force and the city’s mostly African-American population.
At a press conference marking his first day on the job, Harrison promised his officers to “advocate for you to get you all the resources you need to be successful” and to “improve on good relationships and repair bad relationships.”
He also vowed to build up a “very robust, competent, efficient internal affairs division” and enforce “strict discipline.”
“There will be no tolerance for corruption,” the new police chief said.
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