Special police officers — like the one who shot a man outside a Northwest Baltimore methadone clinic Monday — are not required by the state to complete training before assuming their posts.
“Special police” are a small fraction of security guards who are empowered to make arrests, but only on the properties they are hired to protect.
A 2012 Baltimore Sun investigation into the program found that state police “do not provide or require training to the special officers, do not monitor their actions and do not generally investigate complaints against them.”
A Maryland State Police spokesman said those findings “still ring true today.”
Oversight of these law enforcement officials lies in the hands of their employers, and it’s up to them to enforce training requirements.
Business owners, universities and government entities, among other groups, can hire these special officers to guard their property.
A representative of BD Health, which operates the methadone clinic where Monday’s shooting occurred, declined to comment Tuesday.
Baltimore police are investigating the incident. Department officials said that at around 9:30 a.m. Monday, a special police officer working for the clinic shot a 26-year-old man in the parking lot. The officer thought the man was dealing drugs and confronted him, according to city police.
The bullet struck the man’s arm. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and is expected to survive. Neither of the two special police officers on duty at BD Health were injured.
Baltimore police spokesman Det. Jeremy Silbert said no criminal charges have been filed, and declined to release the officers’ names.
There are roughly 1,500 special police officers in Maryland, state police spokesman Ron Snyder said. He did not know how many are licensed in Baltimore.
The Maryland State Police website lists two requirements for those applying to be special officers: They must be at least 18 years old and “of good moral character.”
“There is no requirement for training or having specific licensing to apply for such a position,” Snyder said.
These officers provide an additional layer of protection across the state, without cost to taxpayers. But some critics worry that police powers are being awarded to officers who aren’t properly trained or regulated. There have been a series of incidents in recent years in which people have alleged some of these officers infringed on their civil rights.
Stephen Somers is the private sector committee co-chair for the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. He said he thinks the minimum age for a special officer should be raised to 21, and that all applicants should undergo a minimum of 80 hours of classroom training.
Even if a special officer has very limited jurisdiction, he believes it’s important that they are trained in de-escalation techniques and proper evidence collection. They must be taught the right way to make an arrest, Somers said, and understand search and seizure procedures.
“For the public, they see a special police officer and they believe that person has had training,” Somers said.
Other states have instituted training requirements for their special police officers. In Washington, D.C., 40 hours of training is mandatory.
To get a Wear and Carry Permit for handguns in Maryland, the state requires 16 hours of handgun instruction.