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by Peter Moskos

October 8, 2019

FOP Report: "Mismanagement of the BPD and its Impact on Public Safety"


I've read this so you don't have to. But you should. This is put out by Baltimore City FOP #3. So sure, take it with a grain of salt. But FOP #3 isn't like some other unions that tweet ill-advised statements that hurt the image of policing and their members. [cough NYPD's PBA SBA!]

In 2012 FOP #3 released "Blueprint for Improving Policing." It was far more right than wrong. It was ignored. Had it been followed, perhaps the 2015 riots wouldn't have happened. Then Baltimore would still be seeing declining crime and an influx of people.

In 2015 FOP #3 released an "After Action Review" of the riots that, again, was basically correct. As the Baltimore Sun put it: "If what the FOP reported is wrong, the Mayor and Commissioner need to prove it." Needless to say, they didn't. 

So in the context that this is not an ideological screeds but a union perspective put together by a consulting team (that's OK, even encouraged) consider some of the points in the FOP #3 report about the Mismanagement of the Baltimore City Police Department.

This is not a crime plan. (But it least it doesn't pretend to be.) The consent decree isn't a crime plan nor are reformers' proposals to reduce police violence crime plans. We need a crime plan. But this is about fixing the organization. The first step.

There is still a leadership problem: Officers fear proactive policing because of unjustified criminal prosecution by the state’s attorney. This isn't just "we don't want to be held accountable" griping. See, eg, this.

As to the consent decree, “police have not been informed or training in following the consent decree.” But the major issue right now is probably staffing, and that results in overtime which costs money and, when mandatory, low morale.

Hire people to fill vacancies instead of paying overtime. As to recruitment: train recruiters in how to recruit, conduct exit interviews, recognize exemplary employees, and pay past due recruitment bonus. Seems like common decency, much less common sense.

There is currently budgeted funding for 470 more police officer positions, plus 100 civilians. Standards should be hire. And pay and benefits at a level to attract good candidates.

There are currently only 634 officers assigned to patrol. That is just 70 officers for each of 9 districts! (And may include sergeants, light duty, medical, etc.) This is probably less than half of what it used to be. I read this and said, "can it be?" It can.

Back in 2001, just one district (of nine total)--my district, the Eastern District--had 265 total assigned sworn police officers. We had 130(!) working patrol officers for 3 shifts. And I’m just talking officers (not sgt's and LTs or light duty or medical). Violence went down.

Officer numbers are down because BPD has replaced only 80% of losses since 2001, for a decline of 850 police officers (to 2,480). This is 25%(!) reduction in numbers. And the trend has worsened since 2014.

And when numbers are down, you can't take officers from HQ or consent decree compliance or specialized units or the mayor's detail or the academy. So you pillage patrol, the so-called "backbone" of any police department. And that is what has happened. BPD needs a backbone.

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