Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police tweeted earlier this week: “Word is Police Commissioner Harrison will need to close 2 police districts. As of today, Patrol has fallen below 700 sworn officers.”
A Baltimore Police Department staffing survey in 2018 stated: “The BPD staffing charts for each of the nine districts from December 2017 show that a total of 1,102 police officer positions are budgeted for sector patrol. However, only 809 of those positions are filled. The analysis also shows that while budgeted positions are adequate, the number of filled and assigned positions does not meet the needs of the department and community. To compensate for the lack of police officers assigned to sector patrol, the BPD uses overtime and drafting to fill vacancies.” Since that report, staffing levels have dropped even more.
In December 2020, the FOP reported that staffing levels had dropped 500 officers short. The FOP blamed the drop in manpower on Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s leadership: “500 Officers short! Homicides and shootings are pacing with last year’s record violent crime stats and we have lost more officers than we have hired over the last 2 years of PC Harrison’s tenure in Baltimore. “No actionable crime plan at the street level! In the last 13 days, there have been 19 homicides and 30 failed murders (shootings) in Baltimore. If your starting pitcher is getting crushed, you bench him!”
Harrison was sworn in as the Baltimore Police Department’s 41st Commissioner on March 12, 2019. Since then, he has supported various police reform plans and served on a joint reform commission. He has backed new reforms just passed in Maryland. One new reform requires police departments to determine how to pay for and implement them. For example, the Maryland State Police must equip all 1500 of their officers with body cameras at a cost of more than $5 million dollars. The new reform laws gave defense attorneys an increase in the state cap on damages from police misconduct from $400,000 to $890,000.
Another new rule creates an independent unit within the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to investigate deaths caused by officers. The threshold for use of force has also changed. A new legal definition permits officers to use force only when found “necessary and proportional to prevent an imminent threat of physical injury” or achieve “a legitimate law enforcement objective.” An officer who intentionally uses excessive force that results in death or serious physical injury could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to prison for up to 10 years.
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ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: YAHOO NEWS
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