Putting administrators on streets isn't a long-term answer for police

The deployment of administrative officers to the streets in Baltimore is a cyclical response to increases in crime and a regular enhanced deployment usually during the Christmas holiday season (“Amid violence spike, Baltimore Police commissioner sends administrative officers to patrol streets,” Oct. 17). It has been used frequently in the past, and it has in many instances been somewhat productive. However, it is not permanent and should not be. The department must first conduct a serious study to determine exactly which administrative functions must be staffed by a sworn officer and there are a number of those. Contemporaneously, those administrative functions that do not require a sworn officer also must be identified. The results of such a study should indicate exactly how many sworn officers may be permanently reassigned to the patrol function without disrupting the logistical support necessary to the success of field operations. There is a need to get that done. It should also be noted that the use of sworn personnel in certain specialized administrative functions is totally justifiable.

There is also a need to take a look at the recruitment program, and several questions need to be answered. First of all, why is the agency having problems in hiring the necessary officers to replace those who are retiring, lost to injuries, resigning or being fired? Is it due to a lack of interest in joining law enforcement? If so, are there reasons for that lack of interest? And if so, what are they? Is it due to a lack of qualified applicants? Has the agency set its standards too high? Or has it set them too low? Has the seemingly anti-police attitude among too many of our elected officials had any deleterious effect? How do you identify those who could qualify? And how do you change the public’s attitudes toward the profession so as to encourage them to join?

The new commissioner is facing a myriad of problems that can prevent the agency from providing necessary services to the community. Any commissioner who is hired from another jurisdiction will be hard pressed to “hit the ground running,” so to speak, as some of the problems within the agency are in need of immediate attention. The commissioner will have to deal with the reality of a multi-faceted congregation of constituents who express a variety of interests and in many instances, suggestions and demands as to exactly how the agency should be run. In addition, Mayor Catherine Pugh and the City Council will also strongly influence the new commissioner’s philosophy, agenda, plans and the implementation of his or her agenda. Once Mayor Pugh has satisfied herself that her choice for commissioner meets the standards that she has set, predicated upon her knowledge of the needs of the city and its constituency and the input from all interested groups, she must then allow the commissioner to implement his or her agenda unencumbered by micro-management from City Hall.

That is wishful thinking in today’s world. Too many interested groups are seeking — and obtaining — controls over their police agencies. The biggest problem will be in altering what is a new attitude concerning police and public relations. Too many people want the police to be “hands off” in their daily operations. In a community where crime is rampant, the “hands off” policy dooms the police to failure. If any profession was ever intended to be a “hands on” operation, it is certainly the police. The best operational plans of the most-competent of police executives will fail under an operational philosophy that the police must adapt a “hands off” posture to their job.

To the next commissioner I say, “good luck,” because you certainly will need it.

Robert DiStefano, Abingdon

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