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Why would anyone want to be an LEO in a city that won’t let them be police???

Baltimore Police applications spike during ‘Comeback’-themed campaign, but attrition still outpacing hiring

OCT 09, 2019 | 10:58 AM

Early results of a new Baltimore Police campaign recruiting men and women to “Be a Part of the Greatest Comeback Story in America” are promising: Applications soared to 476 in the month after the launch, nearly double the previous month. In fact, the department has lured more applicants so far this year than in all of 2018.

It’s too early to see a surge of new officers from the media campaign, which began in July. It will take four to six months for applicants to become hires, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said.

Yet, those hires can’t come too soon. As of Oct. 1, the department has hired 128 officers and lost 143 to attrition this year — a net loss of 15 officers. And those 128 hires put the department well below a pace to meets its goal of 300 new hires a year.

Amid the high attrition rate and anemic hiring, Harrison and others express hope that the recruiting bump, technological efficiencies and more strategic use of civilians will put the department on a stronger footing to staff patrols in a city staring down a fifth year of more than 300 homicides.

“The department is seeing a large number of applications. It’s sizeably larger than it has been because of our digital marketing campaign," Harrison said.

"We’re now working to vet those applications to see how many of those people will make it through our process, but it’s very promising,” Harrison said.

The $200,000 marketing campaign was announced in July to help fill the department’s ranks, aiming to hire more women, minorities and city residents. Baltimore has about 2,500 sworn officers. Harrison has not specified how many more are needed, saying it depends in large part on how quickly the department improves its technology and efficiency.

So far this year 3,643 people have applied, up from 3,039 total last year and more than double the number who applied in 2017.

The department in the past has struggled to quickly perform background investigations. When Harrison became commissioner in February, he decided not to immediately spend money available to have a consultant do the investigations, saying he wanted to complete a broader review of recruitment first. Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the department was able to eliminate the backlog without using the outside firm, and that it has slashed the time between when applications are received and reviewed.

Candidates now are often fully vetted within three to four months as the unit has become more efficient, he said.

Leaders of the police officers’ union said in a report released Tuesday that the department has fewer sworn background investigators than it did at the beginning of the year.

The union also said the department must hire 400 to 500 new officers, which would bring staffing levels up to the approximately 3,000 officers on the force in 2012.

Table: Baltimore Police recruitment »

Last year, city officials attributed a jump in applications in part to a new online process, which they said widened the pool of applicants and streamlined their path.

Officials say it’s early to draw conclusions about the current campaign. But Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he is optimistic.

“It’s going very well. It’s showing signs of improvement. More people are beginning to apply," Young said. "I think by the end of the year, we should be seeing some numbers that we can produce, but right now it’s very encouraging.”

Attrition has remained a problem for the past 10 years, with an average of 232 officers leaving yearly, according to department figures.

In 2015, the department lost 243 officers, but hired just 91.

Chart: Baltimore Police turnover »

The same year, six city officers were charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Gray’s death put the department under greater scrutiny after the U.S. Department of Justice conducted a civil rights investigation and found officers regularly violated the rights of residents. The investigation resulted in the city and Justice Department in 2017 entering into a consent decree that requires Baltimore Police to undergo sweeping reforms, including carrying out a comprehensive staffing plan.

Harrison said a staffing study should be completed by the end of the year. In addition to new hires, he plans to use more civilians for clerical duties and increase the use of technology to lessen paperwork so that officers can concentrate on policing.

Recruitment is part of Harrison’s broader crime-fighting strategy, which includes reducing the workload for officers, especially in patrol, which has a vacancy rate of 26%, according to last year’s staffing study.

The union plan released Tuesday highlighted recruitment as a top concern. It called for a greater effort to assign administrative duties to civilians. The union has also called for the department to look into other incentives to draw officers from other agencies, such as a signing bonus, as well as new incentives for officers who have recently retired.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso declined to comment for this article.

The increase in applicants hasn’t affected the quality of those seeking to join the Baltimore department. Records show that about 58% of the applicants this year — before and after the campaign — meet the minimum hiring standards.

The city has sought to hire more women, minorities and local residents. Most of the applicants are African American and men. About a third are from Baltimore, another third are from elsewhere in Maryland, and the rest from out of state. Those demographics are not substantially different from the months before the campaign.

Councilman Ryan Dorsey questioned the department’s staffing strategy. He said some jobs staffed by sworn officers could easily be filled with civilians at less expense. Dorsey said many sworn officers are doing desk work because they are found to be unfit for patrol.

Although that number fluctuates, last year at this time 88 officers were listed as being on “light duty,” and 38 others were on medical leave. An additional 34 were suspended, as the force has seen a large number of its officers investigated or charged with various crimes or infractions.

“It begs the question of why they are still working for the department at all?" Dorsey said. “We don’t know the exact reason, but I’m sure there are officers working [administrative shifts] because they are a liability to put on the street,” Dorsey said. “Something about their track record, they are too great a risk.”

Dorsey also questioned whether the applications would actually result in more officers, noting the challenges facing other police agencies also looking to hire.

A survey of 412 police departments in the U.S. and Canada by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 66% of agencies reported a drop in applications over the past five years. It attributed the declines to a diminishing number of ex-military members who have traditionally been a source of recruits, an improved job market giving potential recruits more job options, and increasingly challenging police work.

Baltimore officials say they face one more recruitment challenge: "Negative feelings about the department.”

For comparison, neighboring Baltimore County also says it is struggling to attract new hires.

“All the agencies are seeing it across the country, but we are very aggressive and looking at other avenues,” Baltimore County Police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson said.

County police hired 101 recruits in 2017, 85 in 2018, and 42 this year for the June academy class, but the department expects to hold another academy class before the end of the year.

New Baltimore officers make $51,953 while county officers make $54,000 a year.

Baltimore County is under greater scrutiny for its hiring practices after the Justice Department sued last month, alleging that a written test for police recruits was unfairly biased against African American applicants.

Once a city officer is hired, he must undergo 1,400 hours of academy training. Harrison’s long-term crime plan calls for the department to relocate the academy to a new facility that can accommodate up to six classes of 40 to 50 recruits, or up to 300 new recruits annually. The current training academy in Northwest Baltimore can accommodate only four classes a year and requires renovations.

Kenneth Thompson, who heads the federal monitoring team overseeing the Baltimore Police consent decree, said he believes Baltimore’s increase in applicants is encouraging.

“They are certainly progressing. It is certainly a tough environment nationally,” Thompson said. “Here in Baltimore, they were actually exceeding their targets. They’ve done some good things. They’ve expedited the processing of applicants. They made progress along those lines."

Ashiah Parker, head of the No Boundaries Coalition, which has long advocated for police reform in the city, said her concern lies with how the department is training those new hires.

“I hope they are training as they have been mandated,” she said. “It seems like their recruitment is working. Let’s see if they are able to hold onto them and police in a constitutional manner.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this artic
Posts: 14475 | Location: Eastern Iowa | Registered: May 21, 2000Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Geez - the Orioles are reason enough not to want to be an LEO there !! Big Grin
Posts: 2725 | Registered: April 20, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Wait, what?
Picture of gearhounds
posted Hide Post
Probably IS a reason for wanting to hire more cops- to protect the fans from the savages as they enter or leave the stadium Razz

Even the Harbor area has become an unsafe shithole in an unsafe shithole city.

"Live every day as if it's going to be your last, and one day, you'll be right.”
Malachy McCourt
Posts: 11951 | Location: Martinsburg WV | Registered: April 02, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
His diet consists of black
coffee, and sarcasm.
Picture of egregore
posted Hide Post
I'm not going to judge anybody for wanting to leave.
Posts: 23666 | Location: Johnson City/Elizabethton, TN | Registered: April 28, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Wow, 476 applications turned in. Roll Eyes I wonder how many will pass a much looser background check and then how many are actually hired and then flunk out of the academy. Then there are those who hit the street and find the street hits back......if they can't find a nice house cat position in the station or headquarters, they will quit.

Lets see the year end results.
Posts: 3081 | Location: St.Louis County MO | Registered: October 13, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
We're a department of 86 and usually see application numbers of around half of that anymore. And that's a steep decline for us.

I suspect that if your background is even remotely clean, you can be a cop in Baltimore right now. I also suspect there was a day when it was super competitive.

I saw a story on one news feed or another the other day about shrinking applicant pools for LE jobs and trying to get to the bottom of why that is. There is no question...the police are portrayed in an increasingly negative light in the media, this is accentuated by social media, and the perception of the public is either poor, or the people that might want to be cops don't want to risk being the next pariah. Add that to a strong economy and more people going to graduate schools than ever and it's really no mystery.
Posts: 3454 | Location: Iowa | Registered: February 24, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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