Baltimore police still struggle to hire more officers even as applications soar

The Baltimore Police Department’s new online job application is helping the agency blow past its monthly recruitment goals, but the number of new hires continues to lag official targets and last year’s performance, a recent report shows.

From January through May, 526 people submitted applications to the police department, an average of 105 per month. That was below the goal of 250 a month, according to a report from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainable Solutions.


But from June through August — the first three months after instituting a new online application — the monthly average soared beyond the goal to 421 as 1,263 applied.

The surge in applications, however, has not yet resulted in more hires.

A day after 11 people were shot, including three fatally, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh condemned the city’s drug trade and interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle announced about 230 officers assigned to administrative duties will leave their offices for patrol work.

The number of people hired from January to September was 121, a monthly average of 13.5. That is below the goal of 25 and lags the 2017 monthly average of 17.25.

The report does not detail how many officers have left the department. But an accompanying graphic shows that departures appear to be outpacing hires.

Baltimore is still trying to make up for officer departures after the 2015 unrest and the arrest of six officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. After three of those officers were acquitted, charges were dropped against the remaining three.

In 2015, the department hired 91 officers and lost 249, for a net loss of 158. In 2016, it hired 111 and lost 225, for a net loss of 114. In 2017, 203 officers left the department and 207 were hired, for a net gain of four officers.

Only 12 percent of Baltimore Police officers passed the most recent promotional exam for sergeant, leaving the department short on supervisors.

A September report by the department and the Police Foundation found that the agency has not prioritized patrol positions, leaving a 26.6 percent vacancy rate — significantly higher than other areas within the department.

The city’s report showed that Baltimore had 1,522 officers budgeted for patrol in August. But only 1,036 were counted as “active” because of 265 vacancies and officers who were on:

  • Light duty: 82
  • New assignments: 55
  • Medical leaves: 39
  • Suspensions: 34
  • Military leaves: 7
  • Other leaves: 4

So who has the police department been hiring? Mostly white men. Slightly more than half of applicants have been black and 31 percent have been white. But 41 percent of officers hired were white, 30 percent were black.

And while 77 percent of applicants were men, 91 percent of new hires were male.

The city this summer launched "Fit to Serve" classes, which help police recruits pass the fitness test and sworn officers boost their fitness.

For the 23 percent of applicants who were women, only 9 percent of new hires were female.

As The Sun has reported woman applicants often drop out because of the department’s fitness test. The new “Fit to Serve” boot camp started by the department — which spends close to $14 million annually on recruitment and training — is expected to help more candidates get fit enough to endure the test.

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