BALTIMORE – Chanta Saunders, a 25-year-old woman who was friends with Freddie Gray and witnessed his arrest, said the Baltimore mayor's decision to fire the city police commissioner was a good one. But Saunders said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake shares as much responsibility as the ex-commissioner, Anthony Batts, for a strained relationship between police and many Baltimore residents.
"He should have been fired," Saunders said of Batts, who was let go Wednesday. "It's him and the mayor: she closed the rec centers for our kids and is building juvenile jails instead. He needed to be fired, but so does the mayor."
Twenty-two-year-old Keonna Stokes, another Baltimore resident, said she was glad to see Batts out. She hopes a new commissioner will have a lower tolerance for police misconduct
"The police wouldn't do the things they do if the commissioner didn't allow it," she said. "He should have been fired. We call the police when we really need them, when people hurt us. But now we don't call them, because they hurt us. If they didn't Freddie would still be here."
Six police officers have been criminally charged in the death of Gray, an unarmed black man who death from injuries last April while in police custody touched off riots.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said a change in police leadership was needed after a recent spike in homicides and in the weeks after Gray's death.