Baltimore police commissioner to name panel that will probe LEO's death

Detective Sean Suiter's death is one of the only unsolved killings of a police officer in the department’s history

By Luke Broadwater
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said Wednesday he is close to signing an agreement with a six-member panel — including two former Baltimore police detectives — to investigate the unsolved death of Detective Sean Suiter.

De Sousa said he has a memorandum of understanding with the former detectives “sitting on my desk right now” to investigate the fatal shooting of Suiter — which is one of the only unsolved killings of a police officer in the Baltimore department’s history.

This undated file photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department shows Detective Sean Suiter. (Baltimore Police Department via AP)
This undated file photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department shows Detective Sean Suiter. (Baltimore Police Department via AP)

“What I can say is it’s going to be two former Baltimore City police detectives,” De Sousa told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday, adding that the detectives were “well-respected” in the field. “When I share the names you’ll understand what I’m saying. They’re well-respected.”

The police chief said the two former detectives will be joined by “a few other outside police leaders.”

“I added up the years of the six members on the panel. It was 220 years of law enforcement experience,” he said.

De Sousa said he hoped to finalize the agreement with the investigators “in the next couple of days” and bring in the outside panel next week.

He declined to provide more information, including the investigators’ identities, until the agreement is finalized. It was unclear how long they would work on the case and how much they will be paid.

“The mandate is for them to take a look at the case, come up with findings and come up with recommendations,” De Sousa said.

Suiter was shot about 4:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in a vacant lot in the 900 block of Bennett Place in Harlem Park. He died the day before he was to give testimony before a federal grand jury investigating Baltimore’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. Suiter was not a target of that investigation, police have said.

His death has been the subject of much debate within the police department, including some who argue the detective killed himself while others maintain it was a homicide. The state Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.

De Sousa’s comments came as he and Mayor Catherine Pugh outlined their policing strategies during a media briefing at City Hall.

After three consecutive years of more than 300 homicides in Baltimore, the city is beginning to see crime declines.

Homicides have declined by 27 percent to begin 2018, while violent crime has dropped by 20 percent compared with last year.

In her budget, Pugh included funding to expand the police department with 100 new officer positions and increase funding for the anti-violence Safe Streets program.

Her budget also included money to help fund an intervention program for boys and young men called Roca and extra services in seven Violence Reduction Initiative Zones throughout the city.

De Sousa said he’s deploying a mobile command vehicle to parts of the city where violence is most intense.

“We’re definitely trending in the direction we want,” De Sousa said of crime. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The commissioner also described some additional technologies his officers will soon be using.

Starting in June, De Sousa said the Baltimore Police Department will begin employing crime analysts in East and West Baltimore, who will use “crime forecasting software” to predict where criminal activity will occur and position patrol officers there.

“The crime analysts will direct the officers per shift, telling them where to go,” De Sousa said, adding that officers will be told how long to monitor certain locations based on a computer algorithm. “The whole concept behind the crime forecasting software is to tell us where to go before the crime occurs.”

The predictive policing strategy was created by Sean Malinowski, a deputy police chief in Los Angeles, who has built a national reputation as a math-saavy commander. Part statistician, part crime fighter, he has spent the past year helping Chicago police open high-tech “nerve centers” in violent neighborhoods.

Inside the centers, computers predict retaliatory shootings and transmit reports of gunfire to patrol officers. Those reports hit officers’ cellphones an average of three minutes before the first 911 call, according to Chicago police.

Predictive policing has won over police chiefs around the country, but also stirred debate among civil libertarians.

De Sousa said he hopes to allay any community concerns over predictive policing by sharing the algorithms the analysts will be using with the community.

“We’re going to be completely transparent about what those algorithms are,” he said.

Pugh said she heard about predictive policing while researching which police departments were being successful in other cities.

“The reduction in violence in Chicago has been attributed to these types of centers,” she said.

©2018 The Baltimore Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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