He replaces former commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III, who announced his retirement in May after a five-year run as chief that included a drop in the number of homicides.
Batts was selected after a nationwide search and will take over Sept. 27. Acting commissioner Anthony Barksdale will remain in the role until then.
Batts served as police chief in Long Beach, where he spent most of his career, from 2002 to 2007. He more recently led Oakland’s police department but resigned last fall after just two years on the job, citing frustration about having limited control over decision-making. He has since been a lecturer and researcher for the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government‘s Program in Criminal Justice.
Batts joined the Long Beach police department in 1982 and served in varied roles, including commander and deputy chief of investigations, before becoming chief in 2002. He left the city in 2007 for Oakland, where he was credited with reducing the city’s murder rate to a five-year low. However, the homicide rate climbed again in 2011.
As chief, he clashed with the Oakland mayor over control of the department. He complained in his resignation letter last October that, “I found myself with limited control, but full accountability.” His resignation came soon after a federal judge said Oakland city officials had failed to comply with many of the reforms the department had agreed to in 2003 in settling a police corruption lawsuit.
Bealefeld said last spring that it was the right time to step aside. He had spent his 31-year career with the police department, rising from the ranks of a foot patrol officer.
Rawlings-Blake had said she was looking for a chief who would continue reducing violent crime, implement crime-fighting technologies and develop relationships with neighborhoods and communities.