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Moving police officers to street patrol from desk jobs to take 18 months


The Baltimore Police Department's plan to move 325 officers from desk jobs to street patrol could start in a few weeks, but the commissioner emphasized this week that it will be at least 18 months before the reshuffling is complete.

Concerned about a 3,000-member police force that he called top-heavy with administrators, the commissioner said his restructuring followed a consultant's review of every job in the department. In that review, he said, one central question was asked: "Does this job have a direct impact on violent crime?"

"We need to get police officers on the street doing what only police officers can do, and that's deal with criminal activity in our city," Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said Wednesday.

Police officials were unable to say which administrative jobs would be first to make the transition, but Mr. Frazier listed information retrieval and data entry as examples.

Such jobs, he said, don't need to be handled by sworn officers. Several hundred civilians would be hired in the next 18 months as replacements, he said, a move that could be done within the department's proposed $212 million budget.

News of the restructuring, first reported by The Sun, drew complaints from the president of the police union, who said the additional officers, while welcome, would do little to offset the attrition plaguing the department.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who is running for mayor, also criticized the plan, charging that it was sparked by politics, not a desire to prevent crime. Yesterday's news conference was held the day after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke kicked off his re-election bid.

Mr. Frazier disputed Mrs. Clarke's charge. He said the $129,000 contract with Management Partners of Cincinnati was signed in November, and the consultants just completed their work.

"It is time for us to come to grips with the fact that we can deliver police service in a more effective way," he said. "I don't see any reason to hold off on implementation of the plan." The department employs 3,103 sworn police officers and 608 civilians. Of that total, 1,541, or 42 percent, are doing administrative or support work -- a number Mr. Frazier called "excessively high."

Some administrative workers must be sworn officers -- those who conduct internal investigations, for example. But other administrative jobs now being done by sworn officers can be eliminated or consolidated, Mr. Frazier said.

The plan calls for the patrol unit to get an additional 293 officers by the end of 1996, boosting its size from 1,956 officers to 2,249. The Criminal Investigation Bureau would get an additional 32 officers, increasing its size from 211 to 243.

Nearly half of the reassigned officers would become available VTC when the state opens its central booking and intake facility next to the city detention center this summer.

The city would begin closing lockups in its nine district police stations, eliminating the need for booking officers. Mr. Frazier said that would free 162 police officers.

Officials expect many of those veteran workers to be hired by the state, freeing their positions for hiring street patrol officers.

The consultant's study also recommends that the department eliminate the section where sworn officers with medical problems do paperwork and other light duties.

Many disabled officers are assigned to the section permanently as they await their 20th anniversary, when they can retire with full benefits. The consultant found that 134 officers were assigned to that section, though no information was available on the number of permanent assignments.

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