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by Peter Moskos

July 13, 2012

Good Ideas from the Baltimore FOP

Maybe I've become a bit cynical after my time in New York, but I don't normally think of the police union as a good source for rational and cost-effective advice on better policing (though protecting workers' rights is an important part of the union).

But I've got to hand it to Robert Cherry, president of my old Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police for their Blueprint for Improving Policing. (But Bob, I'm still a bit peeved that my name is misspelled as "Moslos" on my FOP, Lodge #3 card! You can send a replacement to my school address.) [The FOP is one of the major police unions. The other, which represents the NYPD, is the PBA. In my mind the FOP is somewhat better about caring for the police and the public. The PBA has a bad history of stoking public fear, which isn't really in anybody's best long-term interests.)

From the FOP report:
Our police officers are appalled by those individuals who betrayed their oath and have now pled guilty in the Majestic Towing scandal, along with others which have come to light in recent years. Many now feel embarrassed to tell others they work for the BPD. The rank and file officers attribute this scandal directly to the lax hiring practices of the BPD. 
Specifically, maybe it wasn't a very bright idea to go poach officers from what an incredibly corrupt Puerto Rican police department.

The FOP report continues:
The approximate average number of officers suspended in the BPD is 80-100 at a time, which is more than half of the officers needed to staff an entire district.
Many officers took pride in being a police officer in one of the most challenging policing environments in America. This is simply not the reality anymore. Essentially, Baltimore city taxpayers are being duped. Their tax money is funding the training of Baltimore City police officers who, in turn, leave to work for other jurisdictions, including Baltimore County. The cost is more than just fiscal—taxpayers are losing protection and it’s a waste of resources in general. In addition to losing qualified police officers, according to in-service training surveys, not one Baltimore City police officer said he/she would recommend joining the BPD to potential applicants. At this moment, the Baltimore County Police Department has initiated a 50 member lateral class focusing on recruitment of Baltimore City officers with fewer that five years of experience.
A recent study shows that an increasing number of BPD officers live in Baltimore City. The BPD should make certain that the trend continues by offering incentives for police officers to live within the city limits. The greater the number of officers residing in the city, the more personally invested the police force as a whole will be in the welfare of the city.

The report also calls for getting rid of the "white shirts" (to be clear: just the shirts, not the people in them), a shockingly overdue redrawing of district and post boundaries, more patrol and more visible patrol, more focus on community focused policing and quality of life issues, a more productive (and less stat-and-blame) Comstat, and two years of college or military as a hiring requirement. It all makes a lot of sense. Kudos to the FOP.

Behave! (Big Brother is Watching)

I was interviewed by Videosurveillance.com about my thoughts on video surveillance's effect on crime. I'm skeptical. (But impressed that a company such as theirs is willing to print my unadulterated skepticism.)

Cameras are no substitute of cops.