Stating that he must restore trust and confidence in the office and work with others to make the community a safer place, Ivan Bates was publicly sworn in on Tuesday as the 26th Baltimore state’s attorney, the city’s top prosecutor.

Retired Circuit Judge David B. Mitchell, whom Bates worked for as a law clerk from 1995-1996, administered the oath of office at about 12:30 p.m. inside the Baltimore War Memorial. Bates’ father, Henry, held the Bible while his daughters, London and Brielle, stood next to him.

In a speech after he recited the oath of office, Bates vowed to aggressively prosecute people caught with illegal guns, rescind his predecessor’s non-prosecution policy for low-level, nonviolent offenses and rebuild the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

“Baltimore, it’s time to change how we do things in this city,” Bates said. “This administration is ready to get to work.”

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Bates, 54, of Locust Point, was elected state’s attorney after defeating the two-term incumbent, Marilyn Mosby, and Thiru Vignarajah, a former Maryland deputy attorney general, in the Democratic primary. In 2006, Bates founded Bates & Garcia, P.C., and he previously worked in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office from 1996-2002.

The event was ceremonial in nature. The new Clerk of Court, Xavier Conaway, administered Bates the oath of office on Monday at a private ceremony.

Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead, associate professor of communication and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland and host of “Today with Dr. Kaye” on WEAA-FM, emceed the inauguration. Elected officials and leaders, including Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, attended.

First, Bates said the safety of people who live in the city is paramount, adding that “we cannot afford to play politics with prosecutions.”

He said there must be accountability and certainty of consequences. When Bates campaigned on getting illegal guns off the streets, he said, “I am, and I will.”

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If a person is caught with a weapon, Bates said, assistant state’s attorneys will ask for incarceration. “First time. Third time. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We are asking for jail for illegal handguns.”

Next, Bates said, he wanted to communicate to all the police officers in the city that they always have the right to enforce “any and all laws on the books” and “use the tools in your toolbox to do the job.”

Bates then mentioned how his predecessor had a policy in place against prosecuting certain offenses, including drug possession, trespassing and prostitution.

“Effective right now, this moment, this second, I recall that policy,” Bates said to applause and cheers in the audience.

Ivan Bates speaks during his inauguration to be Baltimore state’s attorney on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at the Baltimore War Memorial. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

At the same time, Bates said, he has witnessed how the criminal justice system has unfairly imprisoned Black men and women at a “staggering level” and declared that “we will not go back to the era of mass incarceration.” His motto, he said, is justice tempered with mercy.

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Later, Bates said he will work to change the culture of the office and address a staffing shortage to hold violent criminals accountable.

Assistant state’s attorneys, he said, tirelessly work to keep the city safe.

Earlier in the morning, Bates greeted students at the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys. He was later taken to the hospital out of an abundance of caution after feeling dehydrated, according his spokesperson, James Bentley II.

Bates has scheduled events throughout the week to commemorate his inauguration, including a luncheon for older adults at The Forum and a town hall at Huber Memorial Church.

Three people spoke ahead of Bates at the swearing in ceremony and talked about his character, leadership and legal ability.

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Former Deputy State’s Attorney Haven Kodeck, who worked in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office from 1970-2011, said he and former State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy interviewed Bates and both agreed that he had the “legal expertise and solid character to be an outstanding assistant state’s attorney.”

Both of them, Kodeck said, were right.

Kodeck shared several personal stories. That includes how he was able to convince a judge — Mitchell — to postpone a trial so he and Bates could travel and watch the Baltimore Ravens play in Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida.

“Not only does Ivan love the Ravens, but he also loves the City of Baltimore,” Kodeck said. “He firmly believes that he can continue to make Baltimore a safer city.”

Retired Circuit Judge Wanda Keyes Heard, who was the first woman to serve as chief judge of Baltimore Circuit Court, said the office used to have a national reputation for excellence and would attract young lawyers from all over to apply for jobs.

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The community, she said, has elected a new, talented leader as state’s attorney.

Bates will insist on a high level of lawyering, integrity and honesty, Heard said. He will win cases, reduce crime and ensure accountability and fairness.

“It’s time to end violence. It’s time for people to stop hurting other people. So watch out,” said Heard, who used sports analogies throughout her remarks. “We have a new quarterback. We have a new pitcher. And he’s really good.”

Bates’ former law partner, Tony Garcia, described him as driven, relentless and empathetic, as well as a seeker of justice.

Bates, he said, will seek out and bring the most talented people to join the office and help sharpen the skills of current assistant state’s attorneys.

Said Garcia: “Ivan will always remember where he came from, and he will always lead us, I believe, in the best direction for Baltimore City.”

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