Baltimore Police Sgt. Michael Mancuso was elected the next president of the city police union Monday night, ousting Lt. Gene Ryan, who has held the position for a tumultuous period since 2014, during which the department faced numerous challenges, including the rioting associated with Freddie Gray’s death, constant leadership turnover, rising crime and scandals.
Mancuso, a 30-year-veteran of the department currently assigned to the homicide section, will be sworn in during an Oct. 22 union meeting.
He did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
In an interview Tuesday, Ryan said of his tenure: “I had a great time. It was a pleasure and an honor serving the membership.”
Ryan said his four years as president saw unprecedented challenges.
“This has been a rough four years without a doubt,” he said.
Among those challenges were the criminal charges filed against six officers involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in 2015, and the federal racketeering convictions of eight officers on the now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force this past year. None of the officers charged in the Gray case was convicted.
His tenure also has been marked by leadership shakeups in the police department, which has had four commissioners in the past three years. Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration is currently reviewing more than 40 applications to name a new commissioner, which is expected next month.
Ryan, a 35-year veteran of the police department, has served in leadership positions with the police union for the past 10 years. He was elected first vice president in 2008 and president in 2014.
Ryan said he plans to take some time off to be with his family. He hasn’t decided whether he will return to patrol.
He said he believes Mancuso will be a great leader for the union.
Ryan also has led the union’s contract negotiations with the city, which remain unresolved. Officers have been operating under a short-term contract agreed to in April.
Former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who led the department from July 2015 until his firing in January, said the change in direction for the union likely reflects its membership’s frustration with the unresolved contract negotiations.
He expects Mancuso to have a more visible and outspoken presence than Ryan, who took a more subdued approach to the job than some of his predecessors.
Davis described Mancuso as a “cop’s cop” who speaks his mind.
“I think Mike Mancuso is much more comfortable being a little more outspoken and developing the relationships he needs to develop with city council members and the mayor, as well as the leadership of the police department,” Davis said Tuesday. “Mike’s style will be different than Gene.”
Davis, who worked with union leaders in three Maryland counties during his law enforcement career, cautioned that outspoken union presidents don’t always get results.
“It sometimes makes the membership feel good if their leadership is willing to speak out against the commissioner, mayor or council, but you have to do that sparingly or you risk damaging necessary relationships,” Davis said.
During his tenure, Ryan was a vocal opponent of placing citizens on the trial boards that hear allegations of wrongdoing against officers, which has been a key goal for activists in the city.
“For a civilian to sit and judge a police officer, they need to have the training” and not have a bias against law enforcement, he has said.
Trial boards consist of three police officers who can recommend discipline against an officer, including a firing, though the police commissioner has final say.
Ryan also weighed in during an incident in which a viral video showed a city officer tackling and beating a man, fracturing his jaw and ribs. Officer Arthur Williams resigned from the force and has been charged with assault and misconduct.
Ryan told The Sun in August that there might be more to the story, but that “at first view” the video of the incident showed “inexcusable behavior” on the part of the officer that the department “can’t tolerate.”
On Tuesday, Ryan said the job can be a tough balancing act between representing officers’ needs but also answering to police department leaders, politicians and the public. When some officers are found to have committed misconduct, he said they must be held accountable.
Noting the gun task force officers, he said, “not everyone belongs at this job. You can’t be afraid to standing up for what’s right. It’s a heck of a fence to walk on.”
From The Baltimore Sun