Baltimore Police Chief De Sousa Suspended Amid Federal Tax Charges

Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said Friday she has suspended Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa with pay pending the resolution of three federal criminal tax charges against him, reversing course from the previous evening when she expressed continued support for him.

“Upon review of the circumstances surrounding Commissoner De Sousa’s failure to file tax returns for successive years, I have placed him on paid suspension effective immediately,” Pugh said.

Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle, a former senior Drug Enforcement Administration official hired by De Sousa in March to oversee strategic and support services, will serve as acting commissioner in De Sousa’s absence, Pugh said.

The mayor wasn’t the only one to change course Friday. De Sousa and his lawyers criticized U.S. prosecutors after the commissioner on Thursday had taken a contrite posture toward the charges, which are misdemeanors.

Attorney Steven Silverman said De Sousa did not learn about the charges until after they were filed and that federal authorities did not give him a chance to explain or file the missing returns — an opportunity Silverman said taxpayers are usually provided.

“Criminal charges are usually a last resort by the government after the tax payer has ignored the government’s warning,” Silverman said in a statement. “Had the government made an inquiry prior to charging, the government would have learned that Commissioner De Sousa was in the process of seeking assistance from a professional tax consultant to file all past due returns.”

Baltimore Police Chief De Sousa charged with failing to file taxes, but mayor expresses confidence in him
The police officers’ union and some state lawmakers on Thursday had called on De Sousa to be suspended, even as Pugh was saying that the commissioner retained her confidence. On Friday she praised De Sousa’s short tenure leading the police department, saying he has been an effective leader who has driven down crime.

“That said, I believe his suspension pending resolution of this matter is in the best interests of the Baltimore Police Department, the city of Baltimore and him personally,” Pugh said.

De Sousa’s suspension with pay is consistent with the discipline of rank-and-file officers who are accused of misdemeanor crimes. It is also department policy that officers must “fulfill their personal financial obligations.”

Asked whether a conviction would preclude De Sousa from returning to his position, Pugh said she didn’t know.

Criminal tax charges are rare, but the IRS sometimes makes examples of high-profile cases
City Solicitor Andre Davis later said officers convicted of “certain misdemeanors” can continue to serve, but would not specify whether De Sousa’s charges fit that category.

It is unclear how long the federal prosecution of De Sousa will take. An initial court appearance had not been scheduled as of Friday afternoon.

Tuggle, a Baltimore native, said he spent much of Friday traveling across the city talking to officers about the transition and his intention to maintain De Sousa’s crime-fighting strategy, which he believes is effective.

“We’ve looked at some of the baddest of the bad in terms of the indivudals causing harm in communities,” Tuggle said. “We’re literally putting them on notice.”

He also said he feels empowered, as acting commissioner, to change course if necessary. “I am able to conduct the department in the way that I see best,” he added.

The decision to have De Sousa step back comes one day after a federal judge unsealed three misdemeanor tax charges against him. The charges allege De Sousa willfully failed to file federal tax returns in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

De Sousa, 53, admitted to not filing his taxes in a statement on Twitter on Thursday, saying his “only explanation” for not filing federal or state taxes in those years was that he “failed to sufficiently prioritize my personal affairs.”

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