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Baltimore Police shuffle deck, move more officers into patrol

Seeking to bolster its response to 911 calls, the Baltimore Police Department on Wednesday announced that it is moving more than 40 officers out of specialized units and into patrol districts. 

Changes had been hinted at since the arrival of Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, who said he wanted to shift more resources to the patrol division, whose officers respond to most citizen complaints.

"Commissioner Batts met with community groups, and visited [district] rolls calls where officers literally asked for more boots on the ground," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "Every meeting, people said they wanted more cops in their districts." 

Patrol's gain is the loss of the Violent Crimes Impact Section, a unit of plainclothes officers focused on guns and drugs, and the Criminal Investigation Division, including some officers assigned to the homicide unit. 

Guglielmi said K-9 officers will be de-centralized from the special operations section and start working out of districts and be available for most shifts. The unit currently has 17 dogs, Guglielmi said, and the department wants to get more. 

Robert F. Cherry, the police union president, said the union generally supports the moves and has called for similar changes in a report it produced over the summer.

"For the most, those who will disagree are the people being moved," Cherry said. "We've heard for a long time that officers were going out short, and we've talked about getting back to basics."

Some officers could elect to challenge the transfers, he said, citing language in the union contract that enables officers to request a hearing if they are being transferred. But Cherry said the number of officers being moved is actually small, and that a larger realignment could be on the horizon if police truly want to shake things up. 

"It is a change, but it's not yet the major fundamental change," Cherry said. "Shootings and homicides have been picking up just a little bit, and I don't think they're ready to make the wholesale moves."

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