Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said it appeared that the city police department was “stonewalling” city auditors looking into the agency’s performance at attracting recruits.
Auditor Audrey Askew told members of a city commission that oversees her work that the Baltimore Police Department hadn’t supplied information to back up claimed recruitment performance, that officials were at times not returning her calls and that the department had not signed a formal engagement letter with the auditors.
Commission member Comptroller Joan Pratt, whose office includes the auditors, said she spoke directly with the interim police commissioner to resolve some of the communication issues.
Young, who is a member of the commission, said Monday that the way the police department was participating in the routine audit was “unacceptable.”
“It seems like the agency is stonewalling the auditor,” Young said. “We can tell when someone doesn't want to give up their information.”
Young asked a representative for the mayor who attended the hearing to follow up with the police department and the commission agreed to invite the police commissioner and the department's chief financial officer to its next meeting, which has not been scheduled, to answer questions.
The police department said in a statement Tuesday morning that it was “cooperating fully” with the auditors, and had turned over data Friday. The statement says auditors asked for documentation Monday to support that data and the department was committed to turning it over by the end of the day on Tuesday.
“As far as we are aware, we have given the auditors everything they have asked for and there have been no unfulfilled requests for information,” the statement says.
Police spokesman Matt Jablow said that the records were turned over early Tuesday afternoon.
The police department reports progress on four recruitment targets in annual budget books — the number of applications received, number of recruits hired, the percentage of recruits who completed training and how many new hires stay with the department for five years. It wasn't clear which targets were under review and Askew declined to answer questions after the hearing.
Askew told the commission Monday that the police department blamed a staff transition for the issues and said it was trying to cooperate with her review.
But Councilman Bill Henry, one of the commission members, said that didn't seem to be the case.
“The comptroller herself had to call over to the acting commissioner,” Henry said. “I am comfortable saying that department is not cooperating.”
After Askew said she had been told the police department had no data to share, Young questioned whether that could be the case.
“It’s their responsibility to have data to support what they do,” Young said. “I think we should press them more for that information and they should provide that information. I’m quite sure they have it.”
Askew responded: “We’ve asked them several times.”
In the most recent budget documents, the police department reported that it fell short of its recruitment goals. In the 2017 budget year, it reported attracting 1,186 applications out of a targeted 2,500, and recruited 153 officers when its goal was 200.
The department has struggled for years to train enough recruits to keep pace with officers leaving and Mayor Catherine Pugh has said she wants to increase the size of the police force.
But police leaders have reported in recent months a surge in applications after a team revamped the process.