BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, Baltimore City Police point to 2015 as the year it lost a net of 152 officers from the department.

Its retention plan points to low morale and a competitive job market as factors for officers leaving.

“They are a training ground for law enforcement officers to serve other parts of the state and federal agencies,” said Jason Johnson, president of National Law Enforcement legal.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said capital improvements are ongoing and more are needed.

“We’re improving on facilities. We’re improving on technology. We’re improving on working conditions. We’re working to improve on pay.” Commissioner Harrison said.

Focus group responses in the department retention plan point to the working environment. Not just morale, but physical working conditions.

One officer is quoted saying some district stations are “worse than jails.”

“Just walk into the public area of any of these police stations and they pale in comparison to anything you’d see in any of the surrounding suburban counties,” Johnson said.

This could explain why Montgomery County Police have nine billboards up across the state, including in Baltimore City, recruiting from a talent pool already ripe to leave.

“Back in 2015, having 1,400 applicants for our academy class to now just under 600 applicants currently,” said Montgomery County Police Captain Augustine.

Montgomery County and departments across the country have their own struggles with recruitment and retention.

“We need to spread out within the community to let other jurisdictions and other areas where people live to know Montgomery County Police is hiring.”

Still, former BPD Commander Jason Johnson said talent is still drawn to the challenge and variety of opportunities BPD offers.

“Baltimore City offers a lot of unique opportunities I think they need to market better,” Johnson said.

City police report it hired 147 officers in 2019. That contrasts with the 177 officers who left.

Paul Gessler

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