Anthony W. Batts was officially sworn in Thursday as Baltimore's 37th police commissioner, pledging to build trust with the community while continuing to reduce violent crime.
Batts, who spent three decades with departments in California, has been guiding the city police force since his arrival in late September following the retirement of agency veteran Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
The city's homicide numbers are on track to rise compared to last year, when Baltimore saw fewer than 200 killings for the first time since the 1970s, but overall gun violence continues to trend downward.
"My promise to you, and the people of this great city, is that the BPD will continue our progress at reducing violent crime and holding accountable those that perpetrate violence in our good streets," Batts told Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
He said he plans to challenge officers and citizens alike to "stand up tall to make a dramatic impact."
Rawlings-Blake said Batts has "got the right stuff to do what we need done in Baltimore."
"People see the progress we're making — that we're not going to accept Baltimore as one of the most violent cities in our country," she said.
Batts has taken a relatively low-key public approach so far in his tenure as he learns the city and evaluates the department, but has been approving staff overtime and focusing on serving warrants to try to tamp down violence.
State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, who shared a close relationship with Bealefeld, said he likes what he sees so far of Batts.
"I think he seems extremely committed to the city — I don't think he views this as just a job," Bernstein said. "He's trying to be a sponge, and I think we have to give him time to absorb everything."
Both Batts and Rawlings-Blake heaped praise on the department's command staff. "I don't think people know how hard these guys work," Batts said. "When I go out to calls at 1 in the morning, they're always there. They're dedicated to this city, and I'm extremely proud of them."
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