As he ends his first year on the job, Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony Batts faces questions about whether he is taking too long to remake the agency and develop a crime-fighting strategy, reports the Baltimore Sun. Others say he is being candid about the city’s problems and deserves more time to make progress. Batts, 53, said he has been making improvements to the agency of nearly 3,000 officers, though not so quickly as he would like. He plans to keep a relentless focus on gangs and address issues of attrition and low pay for officers.
Against that backdrop, Baltimore is headed for a second consecutive annual increase in homicides, and the number of nonfatal shootings is on track to rise for the first time in six years. “I think, by and large, the average citizen would say they’re not sure where we’re going and not comfortable with the direction,” said Franklin Lance, a West Baltimore pastor and member of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council. Batts, whose 30-year career before Baltimore was spent on the West Coast, believes attrition may be his biggest challenge. He said officers are “voting with their feet,” leaving amid frustration over pay and changes to their pensions. The number of officers leaving the force since Batts took over is 33 percent higher than in the same period before his arrival.