BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore mayor fired the troubled city's police commissioner Wednesday, saying that a recent spike in homicide rates weeks after a black black man died of injuries in police custody required a change in leadership.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thanked Police Commissioner Anthony Batts for his service and announced that she was appointing Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis as interim commissioner.
"We need a change," Rawlings-Blake told a news conference. "This was not an easy decision but it is one that is in the best interest of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better and we're going to get better."
The firing comes 2 1/2 months after the city broke out into riots following the death of Freddie Gray, who died in April of injuries he received in police custody. Six police officers have been criminally charged in Gray's death.
After the violence, arrests in the city plummeted and the city's homicide rate spiked. The most recent violence happened Tuesday night, when gunmen jumped out of two vans and fired at a group of people a few blocks from an urban university campus, killing three people. A fourth person sought treatment for a gunshot wound to the buttocks and was in stable condition.
"Too many continue to die on our streets," Rawlings-Blake said.
Police said Wednesday that the shooting wasn't random, but no arrests have been made.
On Tuesday, the police department announced that an outside organization will review the department's response to the civil unrest that followed Gray's death. Most of the unrest took place on April 27, prompted by Gray's death on April 19. In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights review of the department, and Batts has been criticized by the Baltimore police union.
According to an autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun newspaper last month, a medical examiner found that Gray suffered a "high-energy injury," most likely caused when the Baltimore police van he was riding in braked sharply. The report said Gray's death could not be ruled an accident and is instead a homicide because officers didn't follow safety procedures "through acts of omission."
Rawlings-Blake appointed Batts as police commissioner in September 2012.
He has had more than three decades of experience in law enforcement, according to his biography on the Baltimore Police Department website, including serving as chief of police in Long Beach, California, and Oakland, California.
He started his career in 1982 as an officer with the Long Beach department, working his way up to chief over a 20-year span. He also served as city manager of Long Beach for four months and taught at California State University, Long Beach. He was chief in Oakland for two years, from 2009 to 2011.
Batts earned a doctorate in public administration from the University of La Verne, a master's in business management from the University of Redlands, and a bachelor's in law enforcement administration from California State University, Long Beach.
He is a father of three children.