Pugh spotlights Baltimore policing recruitment

Baltimore police recruitment so far this year is three times higher than the same period in 2016.

Mayor Catherine Pugh says Baltimore police have stepped up recruitment: More than double the number of people applied to the agency in January as did for the same month in 2016.

Pugh recently authorized the hiring more city police officers to help address surging violence. The police force, with about 2,600 officers, has roughly 225 openings.

"I said, 'Baltimore City is hiring,'" Pugh said Wednesday. "We are looking for people to apply to become Baltimore City police officers, and apparently people are listening."

The hiring increase is in addition to 100 officers Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is shifting to the patrol division to boost the number of police on city streets. The actions followed a warning from the police union that Baltimore was "at great risk" because the department did not have enough officers to adequately cover patrol shifts.

Last month, 130 people applied to be city officers compared to 57 in January 2016.

Twenty-eight of the new applicants are city residents; 17 of the hopefuls from January 2016 lived in Baltimore.

More city residents have become police trainees in recent years, according to the mayor's office. Last year, 20 percent of police officer trainees were city residents, up from 5 percent in 2015. It was 12 percent in 2014 and 11 percent in 2013.

Last month, 30 sworn officers were lost to attrition. That's more than a typical month. The attrition rate from 2002 to 2016 was 22 officers a month, according to the mayor's office.

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the agency is committed to robust recruitment, including hiring city residents. He mentioned the "Pizza in the Precinct" events that allow police trainees to learn about city neighborhoods and housing options.

"Our applications have increased so far this year and we are hopeful that many of those applicants join the ranks of the Baltimore Police Department," Smith said in a statement. "As it stands for the two classes in the academy right now, approximately 30 percent of the recruits are now Baltimore City residents. The last graduating class had 42 percent of its recruits as city residents."

Police officials have said their goal is to have all police vacancies filled by December. Starting salaries are $48,900.

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