Residents say they are worried they will be left with a vacant building and declining police presence in their community after the training academy moves.
Betty Cherniak felt comforted when she would see Baltimore Police trainees jogging through her Northwest Baltimore neighborhood. The training academy, though in need of serious updating, was welcome in the Glen neighborhood, she said.
“It was nice to have the police presence,” Cherniak said.
But that presence will be mostly gone by the end of the year. Left behind will be the large building, and Cherniak and others worry the structure on Northern Parkway will be empty indefinitely.
Cherniak, president of the Glen Neighborhood Improvement Association, and other residents from surrounding communities packed into the Jewish Community Center Wednesday night to hear from city officials, including Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, about future plans for the building once the training academy relocates to the University of Baltimore campus near downtown. City officials say the police and fire departments still will have some resources at the old facility.
The police department is making the move because the old building has become dilapidated. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, who is overseeing the federal consent decree, has told city officials to prioritize relocating the academy to a more modern facility in order to help boost morale and draw more candidates to a department which has struggled with staffing levels.
Young said there are no current definitive plans for the site and the city wants to seek input from residents to decide what to put there. However, he added, the city is limited by costs and anticipates a number of expenses, such as school investments recommended by the state’s Kirwan Commission and mandates for policing by the consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.
“We’re not going to have funding to do everything I want to do,” Young said.
City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who represents Northwest communities, said many residents see the move as a loss of police resources for their community, leaving just a large, potentially blighted building in its place.
“The number one concern is public safety,” he said.
During the meeting, Schleifer asked residents to raise their hands if public safety was a concern. A majority raised their hands.
Many residents, including Cherniak, expressed interest in making the site a recreational center, while others suggested a theater and another suggested a facility for the homeless.
Others said they wanted to see the Northwestern District police station relocated from its cramped, outdated building on Reisterstown Road, moving it out of the Woodmere neighborhood about a mile east.
The Baltimore Jewish Council’s Board of Directors has lobbied for the Northwestern District station to be relocated to the current academy site, along with a recreation center adjacent to the existing athletic fields.
“Such an idea would keep a law enforcement presence at this key intersection, while offering enhanced opportunities for the neighborhoods,” wrote Howard Libit, director of the Jewish Council, in a recent editorial.