Police Commissioner Kevin Davis on the future of Baltimore

Date: March 7, 2016

 

Kevin Davis, Baltimore Police Commissioner, leads the eighth largest police department out of 18,000 across America. Davis is a fourth-generation public safety professional and has lived in Maryland all his life. He describes himself as “battle-tested” from his time in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.

“Poverty in Baltimore is profound – United Way knows this,” Davis said at United Way’s “In Their Own Words” breakfast on March 2. He acknowledged the “challenging time” Baltimore has had lately, especially after the unrest last year. “Everyone is looking at Baltimore.” However, Davis views this as an opportunity. “What did we learn from 2015 that will make our city, agency and profession better?”

One improvement is body-worn cameras for police. Once implemented, Baltimore will be the largest agency in the country with these cameras. Body-worn cameras are popular both with officers and the community, so a win for everyone.

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Davis is committed to making an already strong police team even stronger. Only 12 percent of officers across the country are women, so one of his goals is to engage more women in police work. Davis introduced a few of his current women leaders, including Chief of Patrol Melissa Hyatt, one of two district commanders, Major LaTonya Lewis, and Chief Ganesha Martin.

He also hopes to draw more future police officers from Baltimore’s Police Explorers program. Attendance in the program more than doubled after the unrest. “A crisis galvanizes a community,” said Davis. “People want to be part of something special.”

Davis also plans to make police stations more welcoming to the community so residents come in to ask for help or just interact, not just when there’s trouble.

His vision for the future police force requires a different approach. Millennials may be smart and savvy with technology; however, Davis noticed they needed additional training to get out of their patrol cars and engage the community. Davis is committed to officers “walking a post” and being able to talk about non-law enforcement issues. “We have a responsibility to prepare police officers better to respond to different cultures,” he said. Under his watch, new officers spend their first 90 days on foot patrols, moving around the city.

Davis also would like to see more officers living in Baltimore neighborhoods. “I’ve always lived where I police because I like people to see me off duty,” he said. Building relationships often happens through sports, places of worship and volunteering.

It’s all part of engaging the community – especially young men – and experiencing different neighborhoods. “Young people are very thoughtful and want to be change agents and future leaders,” said Davis. These relationships are critical and can help the city heal and move forward.

“I’m excited about where the police department is going,” he said.

Before Commissioner Davis spoke, Mark Furst, United Way of Central Maryland President & CEO, welcomed guests to the breakfast and thanked Judge Halee Weinstein for starting the first Veterans Treatment Docket in Maryland. United Way is a partner in this docket, organizing resources to enable military veterans to get the help that they need.

The Reverend Dr. Alvin Gwynn, Jr., pastor at Leadenhall Baptist Church and United Way Board Member, talked about his roles as pastor and former police detective. “A heart for people” is needed to do both. He celebrated the diversity in Baltimore but spoke of the great needs in our region, including homelessness, and how we can work together to address these challenges.

Paul Tiburzi, Baltimore Managing Partner at DLA Piper, introduced Commissioner Davis and shared his family’s connection to the police, as his father served. United Way of Central Maryland’s “In Their Own Words” breakfast series is generously made possible thanks to DLA Piper’s sponsorship.

Sheela Murthy, President and CEO of the Murthy Law Firm — and United Way of Central Maryland Million Dollar Roundtable member — thanked everyone for coming. Murthy emphasized United Way’s challenge grants and encouraged attendees to consider stepping up to Leadership and Tocqueville levels. “No amount is too large or too small to support Baltimore and our communities,” she said.

Murthy also thanked guests for bringing books to donate to children in area schools as part of “Read Across America Day” and United Way of Central Maryland’s Dr. Seuss Day celebration. Baltimore Police officers joined United Way staff and nearly 130 volunteers, representing at least 25 companies and organizations, to read The Cat in the Hat to students at 18 schools and community centers in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

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