The Baltimore Police Department has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to hire 10 new officers.
The city already has about 3,000 sworn officers — more per capita than many other large cities in the country — but just experienced a violent summer and has seen more murders so far this year than at the same time last year.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, who just concluded his first year on the job, recently said attrition in the department was a major problem, with many officers leaving the force.
Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said that he did not yet know how the additional officers will be utilized, but that the department will be happy to have them.
"We're grateful for this opportunity to add new officers to the ranks as we continue our long-standing mission to ensure public safety and drive down violent crime in the city of Baltimore," Kowalczyk said.
The award, announced Friday, makes up the bulk of the more than $1.7 million received by four police agencies in Maryland from the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which in total awarded $125 million in grants for 263 local police agencies to hire nearly 1,000 officers nationwide.
"These critical investments represent the Justice Department's latest effort to strengthen key law enforcement capabilities, and to provide communities with the resources they need to protect our young people," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.
Of the total nationwide funding, nearly $45 million will go to fund 356 school resource officers — a priority of this year's grant process — but the new officers in Maryland will not be devoted to schools.
In addition to the funding in Baltimore, the Hagerstown Police Department in Western Maryland was awarded $250,000 to hire two new officers. The town of Bladensburg and the Seat Pleasant Police Department were awarded $125,000 and $87,344, respectively, to hire one new officer each.
The funding covers up to 75 percent of officers' salaries for three years, with the local agencies funding the remaining 25 percent.
Officials in Maryland were quick to praise the program's funding to the state in statements released following the announcement.
"Keeping our children safe from violent crime, drugs and gangs is of critical importance," said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
"Safe neighborhoods and good law enforcement depend on having enough police officers where they are needed across our communities," said Sen. Ben Cardin.
"This federal funding is important to ensure our cops are on the beat to combat violence, protect families, and fight the crime that is destroying neighborhoods," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
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