Baltimore Police Commissioner Suspended

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Baltimore's police commissioner has been suspended with pay one day after being charged with three misdemeanor counts of failure to file taxes, the city's mayor announced Friday.

Although Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has been "an effective leader," his suspension "is in the best interest of the Baltimore Police Department, the City of Baltimore and him personally," Mayor Catherine Pugh said at a news conference.

Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle will serve as acting commissioner in the meantime, Pugh said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's office alleged that De Sousa "willfully failed to file a federal return for tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, despite having been a salaried employee of the Baltimore Police Department in each of those years."

If the charges are proven, De Sousa faces up to one year in prison and a $25,000 fine for each of the three counts.

De Sousa issued a statement Thursday admitting his failure to file federal and state taxes for those three years, but portrayed it as an oversight. He said he filed his 2016 taxes and got an extension for 2017, and is now working with a "registered tax adviser."

"While there is no excuse for my failure to fulfill my obligations as a citizen and public official, my only explanation is that I failed to sufficiently prioritize my personal affairs. Naturally, this is a source of embarrassment for me and I deeply regret any embarrassment it has caused the police department and the city of Baltimore," he said.

The city's police union president, Gene Ryan, said Thursday that the commissioner should "do the right thing by taking a leave of absence" until the federal case is resolved.

Ryan couldn't immediately be reached Friday by The Associated Press.

De Sousa was touted as a change agent when Pugh picked him earlier this year as commissioner, even though he joined the city's force in 1988. He succeeded former commissioner Kevin Davis, who spent 2 years at the top job. At the time, Pugh said the leadership change was needed, given the city's eye-popping violent crime rate.

Some prominent activists have portrayed the federal case against De Sousa as a sign that Baltimore's leaders don't know what they are doing.

"So the feds say he missed taxes for three years. Now, if you vet a person the first thing you do is check out their money, correct?" said Duane "Shorty" Davis.

When asked at the press conference about the vetting process for De Sousa, the mayor said "we learned a few lessons."

"I thought we vetted him pretty well. We went through all of his police credentials," Pugh said.

According to a biography provided by the city, Tuggle is a Baltimore native who began his law enforcement career as a city police officer. In 1992, he joined the Drug Enforcement Administration, where he rose through the ranks, with posts eventually including Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Division.

Tuggle returned to the Baltimore Police Department in March 2018.

"All Baltimore citizens can be assured that these developments will in no way impede our relentless efforts to make our city safer," Pugh said in a statement Friday.

(KA)