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A solution to Baltimore’s crime: police cadet high school

To improve life in Baltimore City and solve our policing problems, we should turn one of the city high schools into a cadet training academy, grounded in best police practices, to ultimately provide the Baltimore Police Department a pipeline of 100 well-prepared graduates each year. Like a school for the Arts (or any other specialty charter-type school), the curriculum will include both traditional academic courses and classes in the alternative field; in this case classes might be in community building, rights of citizens, effective city policing strategies and coordination of social services.

When these students graduate, they will be 18 years old and eligible to enter the police cadet academy with salaries starting at $31,500 year. After three years, they can be promoted to BPD officer jobs at $52,500. That could be an attractive career path for many rising high school students in the city. By coordinating with the housing department on a development project geared for this group of cadets, we can make it even more encompassing.

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This sprint, the Department of Housing announced a $10 million investment to develop 40 row homes ($250,000 each) in Upton. Thus, with $25 million a year they should be able renovate or build 100 new homes a year for the new cadets. Perhaps even more cheaply with economies of scale. These homes might be grouped in 25 on each side of a street so that every year, two more blocks in the city would become the center of a few-block radius of safe zones, as it seems unlikely criminals will want to spend much time on or near streets that 50 police officers live on. Others looking to move to the city, might also consider moving near these blocks as it may ease their concerns about crime. This of course, requires the community to feel safer in the proximity of officers, which certainly has not been the case. These new cadets could be part of re-establishing trust through their education and building relationships with the communities they live in.

Cadets are sworn in as members of the Baltimore Police Department. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has said it's a goal to recruit new cadets.
Cadets are sworn in as members of the Baltimore Police Department. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has said it's a goal to recruit new cadets. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

To have skin in the game and keep the city tax rolls whole, the cadets will pay the property taxes, insurance and any maintenance on the home that was built for them. To truly make it their own home, each year they serve for the next 20 years, the new officers will gain 5% equity in the house. After 20 years on the job, they will own their home outright.

Ideally, we’ve now built a desirable career path to employment and Baltimore home ownership for 100 cadets a year. This will also help solve the overall BPD recruitment shortfalls, help population stabilization goals and increase the number of police living in the city to help reduce crime while stabilizing several blocks each year. Sounds good, right?

So, how to pay for it? For each graduating class of 100 we need to appropriate approximately $4 million for cadet salaries and police trainers, and $25 million for housing costs. That $29 million per year can be funded by reducing the current police overtime costs from $50 million back to the low $20 million range it hovered at just five year ago. Recent Baltimore Sun stories on police overtime indicate dramatically reducing OT shouldn’t be too difficult, as it appears to have been granted in the past seemingly with no limits or accountability — to the highest salaried and longest tenured officers. Efficient organizations know to use cheaper human resources for overtime-eligible positions and that more experienced and expensive leadership are best utilized providing direction and oversight.

Commissioner Harrison has already stated a few of his key goals on the path to be a better BPD are to increase recruitment classes and reduce the ineffective use of budget dollars. Coordinating a program like the above with Baltimore City Schools and housing might be one piece of the puzzle.

Gregg Nass (gnass123@hotmail.com) lives in Baltimore and works in health care consulting.

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