Reacting to recent television news segments showing multiple Baltimore police officers asleep on the job, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts sent his officers a stern warning.
The commissioner's email to all sworn officers comes after WBFF-TV Fox 45 began recently putting pictures on its newscasts and website of pictures sent in from viewers of uniformed officers in squad cars allegedly snoozing behind the wheel.
In the email, Batts notes the strain police are under. Many patrol officers are working overtime, struggling to fill the void left by 200 sworn vacancies attributed to years of attrition. Another 260 sworn staff positions are empty due to suspensions, military or medical leave, police say. At full strength, the force would number 3,100 officers.
The email, leaked to The Baltimore Sun, was verified by police.
Here it is in its entirety:
"Earlier this week, an officer was publicly ridiculed on television when a citizen took a picture of him sleeping in his vehicle. Tonight, another story will run with additional photos and videos citizens have taken of our officers sleeping while on duty.
Let me make it perfectly clear – this is unacceptable and those found sleeping on duty – be it by a supervisor or the public – will be held accountable. Sleeping on duty is not only an egregious violation of the public trust; but a serious safety issue. I never want to have to officiate over a funeral or visit the hospital because a felon walked up to a car with a gun rather than a citizen with a smart phone.
I know you are working harder than you may have ever possibly worked before and the hours have cut into your personal lives. Know that I am extremely proud of the excellent work you are doing each and every day.
Please – look out for each other. If you are tired, get out and talk with citizens in the neighborhood – they are obviously out and about. Supervisors be supervisors – lead from the front! Ensure your officers are engaged at all hours of the day.
There is no doubt this additional media attention has created a 'photo-opportunity hunt' for officers neglecting their duties. If you thought we weren't under the microscope before, take heed – we absolutely are. And in the name of every officer who has worn this badge with pride, and those who have died wearing it, do what is right – stay alert, be safe, and take pride in the work we are doing for the citizens of this City."