BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Starting this year, the Baltimore Police Department will hire civilian investigators to supplement its ranks of sworn officers, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Mayor Brandon Scott said.

The BPD will be one of the first major police departments in the country to hire civilian investigators, Harrison and Scott said.

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In Fiscal Year 2023, which begins this July, the department is planning to hire 35 investigative specialists. Plans call for hiring an additional 135 staffers between Fiscal Year 2024 and Fiscal Year 2026.

Civilian investigators will look into cold cases, low-level crimes, internal affairs cases and perform background checks and other acts of intelligence gathering.

“Maybe people will trust the police a little bit more if they have civilians involved,” said Baltimore resident Christie Coe.

The department is also hiring for the following positions:

  • Crime Scene Technicians
  • Executive Secretaries
  • Fleet Support
  • Recruitment/Human Resources
  • Academy Instructors
  • IT Specialists and Support
  • Fiscal Services
  • Crime Analytics
  • Public Relations
  • Records Management
  • 911 Dispatchers

By civilianizing certain positions, the department can return more sworn officers to patrol and confront staffing shortages, Harrison said.

“Well, I think it helps us with two things. It helps us with speed, it helps us with frequency,” he said. “We can get to cases faster and we can take on more cases at the same time by adding this capacity.”

But the commissioner stressed the hires are not being made at the expense of the BPD’s efforts to hire sworn officers.

“This is an enhancement, it is not a cut,” he said.

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Last October, the Baltimore Police Department and the union representing sworn officers agreed on a new three-year contract that bumped the starting salary for new recruits will by 10%, to $60,146, beginning in July.

The agreement also included across-the-board raises, a “patrol incentive” for officers who work patrol during an entire fiscal year, extra compensation for night and evening shifts, and education bonuses.

Scott said the new civilian positions will help the city’s fight against violent crime.

“We know that every time you’re able to take your report faster, every time you’re able to put another sworn officer out on the streets, that has an impact,” he said.

The positions will open up in May, and the goal is to have them all hired by the end of the year.

The starting salary for the civilian detectives will be about $49,000 a year.

Some community members we spoke with have questions about the program.

“We need to hire more police officers, to tell you the truth,” said Christian Allen. “Stop trying to work around it. Do what needs to be done”

The commissioner said the department is competing with thousands of law enforcement agencies to hire from a small pool of qualified applicants.

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“I’ll give him credit for coming up with new idea, because the old ideas haven’t been working,” said Coe.

Jessica Albert