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Baltimore Police receive $2.8 million to fund 10 new positions and bolster federal violent crime task force

U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, left, and Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, right, have teamed up on a number of initiatives aimed at reducing violent crime in the city. A new federal initiative announced this week provides $2.8 million to help Baltimore hire 10 new officers and bolster it's violent crime task forces.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, left, and Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, right, have teamed up on a number of initiatives aimed at reducing violent crime in the city. A new federal initiative announced this week provides $2.8 million to help Baltimore hire 10 new officers and bolster it's violent crime task forces.(Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore Police Department has received $2.8 million in federal funding to hire 10 new officers, freeing it up to reassign 10 veteran officers to federal task forces targeting repeat violent gang and drug offenders.

The U.S. Justice Department announced the awards of $61 million to seven cities, including Baltimore, that are struggling with crime.

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In addition to the money to hire new officers, Baltimore Police received $1.4 million to fund new technology to track violent offenders, police and the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

The Justice Department announced the launch of the funding program dubbed “Operation Relentless Pursuit" in December, with the goal of providing a “surge” in law enforcement resources to cities struggling with high crime. Baltimore was selected as a target city, along with Detroit; Cleveland; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee; and Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri.

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“While violent crime is down across the country as a whole, some communities remain caught in the grips of violent actors,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement this week. "Today’s grant awards are critical to our mission. We cannot succeed in eradicating crime without resources — the most vital of which are the brave men and women who serve and protect our communities each day. These funds will boost the forces that need them most.”

The funding pays salary, benefits and overtime costs for three years for each of the 10 officers hired, at an average of about $93,000 annually. As part of the arrangement, the department will deploy ten veteran officers to task federal task force duties.

The officers assigned to the federal task forces are required to work with the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute suspects involved in gangs, drug trafficking and other violent crime. That will benefit Baltimore because it focuses resources on the type of drug violence that plagues the city, the department and federal agencies said.

The Baltimore Police did not provide a timeline for the transfer or say whether the veteran officers could be reassigned before the new officers are hired and trained. The department, like other agencies across the country, has struggled to fill a number of vacancies in its ranks. It is short about 300 officers.

In a joint statement, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office and Baltimore Police outlined what it called steps the department is taking to increase the number of new hires, including building a new training facility, streamlining curriculum to hold more academy classes and launching a digital marketing campaign.

“The campaign has led to an increase in applications and we expect to be hiring more qualified candidates from this pool,” the joint statement said.

The money to hire new officers is separate from the $1.4 million for “technical assistance” for “technology to help investigators locate violent suspects or vulnerable victims as part of an innovative approach to address violent crime by focusing on violent offenders,” the BPD and Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office statement said. “It is these concerted efforts that will enable more case closures, more arrests of repeat offenders, and set the foundation to build stronger federal cases.”

After the announcement, U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert K. Hur said that his office has been working increasingly with local agencies to reduce crime, and has increased the number of local criminal cases prosecuted in federal court by 24% last year.

Baltimore is operating under a federal consent decree after an investigation found officers routinely violated residents constitutional rights. A separate federal investigation found a unit of plainclothes officers called the Gun Trace Task Force had been lying about probable cause, conducting unjustified searches and robbing people for years. That investigation resulted in the arrests and convictions of more than a dozen officers.

Hur has said that the all-new initiatives and funding efforts would “follow the requirements of the law, the Constitution and the consent decree.”

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