BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s police commissioner says he will add 100 officers to patrol duties, shifting officers in neighborhoods around Baltimore City by the end of the month.
According to a new report, there are more than 100 fewer Baltimore City PD officers than last year, with the union saying this poses a safety concern, as officers are being overworked.
WJZ’s Mike Hellgren found that there are 2,528 sworn officers, with 999 assigned to neighborhood patrols.
In the past year, the total number of officers is down 118, with 103 fewer officers on neighborhood beats.
“I want everyone who has the ability to get on patrol to get on patrol and let’s get Baltimore safer,” says Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh.
At a news conference Friday in response to the criticism, Davis said the attrition rate has skyrocketed since Freddie Gray’s death and the unrest in the city that followed.
These staffing changes come after harsh criticism from the Police Union President, who believes the department is dangerously understaffed. The Police Union says these changes would not have happened at all, had they not made a public fuss about it.
“They don’t see the officers on the streets, they don’t feel safe. What I’m advocating for is to make patrol a number one priority,” says Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police.
“You get in a crisis mode like we’re in right now with crime out of control and not enough uniformed officers on the street,” said Lt. Ryan. “I would say it’s at a crisis point.”
The commissioner took issue with that.
“I find that offensive. I know that several of my commanders who find that offensive,” says Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
The police union says they’re happy to see the commissioner admit to staffing problems, but they want to keep their four-day-on, three-day-off schedule — the department says is unworkable.
“The Baltimore Police Department never had the number of officers to staff that 4 days on 3 days off schedule going into it–never had it,” says Commissioner Davis.
“The rank-and-file doesn’t want to change the 10-hour shifts. They want more people on the street,” says Lt. Ryan.
Part of the reason behind the staffing shortage–the unrest–but the department is ramping up the number of sworn officers.
“The number of people resigning, quitting, has exceeded our hiring rate,” says Commissioner Davis.
“I want to say this to all of Baltimore. We’re hiring. We need people from Baltimore to step up to the plate,” says Mayor Pugh.
Officers who left the department “were tired,” he said. And last year, protests consumed more than 100,000 working hours for officers, he added.
“I applaud the police officers who stayed. I really applaud the police officers who were eligible to retire but stayed anyway.”
He and Mayor Catherine Pugh both said several times during the conference that the department is hiring.
In addition to the officers reassigned to patrol, Davis announced that 2017’s strategy will be “data-driven.”
Training hours have also been doubled for BPD officers to 80 hours.