The number of Baltimore police officers on paid suspension over misconduct allegations has shrunk by more than half, allowing more officers to return to the street, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts announced Wednesday.
For years, Baltimore police have struggled with an officer shortage that has forced the agency to overspend its overtime budget. Last summer, vacancies numbered about 460 because of retirements, resignations, suspensions and military or medical leave. The department has about 3,100 sworn positions.
When Batts became commissioner in the fall of 2012, he said too many suspended officers were stuck in limbo waiting for administrative reviews on misconduct allegations, leaving their patrol assignments vacant for months and overstretching the department.
On Wednesday, Batts said the department has been able to shrink the logjam of cases awaiting disposition from 170 in 2012 to 69, allowing several officers who were cleared of wrongdoing to return to their posts.
Batts made the comments during a presentation at a Baltimore City Justice Coordinating Council as part of a general overview of changes he has implemented.
He did not specify how many of the cases resulted in officers returning to work rather than the number of officers being fired, and a police spokesman, Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, said those figures were not available late Wednesday. It was unclear exactly how many suspended officers have returned to patrol duties.
But Kowalczyk said police are shrinking their vacancies through quicker administrative hearings and recruitment. A social media advertising campaign that has included Twitter question-and-answer sessions has helped police recruit a class of more than 60 police cadets who will begin training at the Baltimore Police Academy on Friday.
"It's the largest academy class we've put through in years," Kowalczyk said.
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