The Baltimore Police Department has disbanded its primary plainclothes enforcement unit, sending 46 officers to patrol in the continued fallout from the federal racketeering indictment of a high-profile gun squad.
Officials made the change Tuesday evening. A copy of a personnel order obtained by The Baltimore Sun showed that three lieutenants, seven sergeants and 36 officers are being distributed throughout the patrol ranks. Police spokesman T.J. Smith confirmed the reassignments.
Last week, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging members of another unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, with being part of a racketeering conspiracy. The officers are charged with robbing and extorting citizens, filing false affidavits and police reports, and applying for fraudulent overtime pay. All of the officers have pleaded not guilty.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis promised changes in the department in the aftermath, saying there would be "a lot of reviews, a lot of investigations and a lot of audits" with regard to overtime pay and other areas.
"That scandal, and that's exactly what it was, has ramifications, and it has ramifications for policies, procedures, protocols. It has ramifications for people who were in leadership positions as well," Davis said Thursday.
On Monday, Davis demoted Chief Sean Miller, who oversaw the intelligence section. Miller fell from a top commander to a lieutenant assigned to the Southern District.
The officers reassigned Tuesday fell under an intelligence section that also includes federal task force officers, the vice squad, undercover units, the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, and the Warrant Apprehension Task Force.
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Smith said those units remain intact, and said the disbanded unit represents 20 percent of the overall section.
Gene Ryan, president of the agency's Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said the change was sudden but may be in the best interests of the department. Officials have been struggling with a shortage in patrol in recent years.
"We've always been advocating to put more people in cars to beef up patrol properly," Ryan said.
Ryan, who said he was not informed of the move by Davis, said he recommended to Mayor Catherine Pugh's transition team that most officers should be moved into patrol, with a few units such as homicide and the citywide robbery unit remaining.
"It's definitely a culture change. Maybe it's time for a culture change," Ryan said. "Maybe we need a different way of looking at things and fighting the current crime patterns we have. Maybe we need to take a different approach to get crime under control."