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Baltimore aims to be one of the first cities to address police staffing shortages by hiring civilian investigators

Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced Wednesday that under the plan, the city would hire civilian investigators to focus on low-level property crimes, cold cases, background checks, intelligence gathering and internal affairs matters.
The new civilization classification, included in the city’s proposed $4 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, would build the capacity of additional staff to “maximize the effectiveness of limited sworn resources,” according to the city.

The plan is cost-neutral, Harrison told CNN, because the city will convert 30 currently vacant sworn officer positions into 35 civilian positions that would have a starting salary of $49,000. Baltimore police officers have a starting salary of $60,000, the highest in the state of Maryland, according to the mayor.

Nine civilian positions will be dedicated to supporting the Mayor’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy and 12 civilian support positions will bolster the capacity of the ministry’s telephone reporting unit.

The hiring of civilian investigators is “directly tied” to the department’s current struggle to hire and retain police officers, Harrison said. The agency is currently short by more than 350 positions, he added.

“This plan isn’t about cutting jobs for sworn members of the department. It’s about growing the department and building additional civilian capabilities while being smart about how we deploy officers,” Harrison said. “We are aligning our staffing plan and budgetary resources to bring in qualified professional staff to work alongside our officers to prevent, deter and reduce crime more effectively.”

The Phoenix Police Department announced a similar plan in March, which includes hiring 25 civilian investigators and eight staff for its already active police assistant staff.

Baltimore sees slight increase in homicides and shootings

Baltimore, like many other cities across the country, has seen an increase in violent crime since the pandemic began. The city has recorded 96 homicides and 193 non-fatal shootings since the start of this year, an increase from the 88 homicides and 160 non-fatal shootings recorded during the same period in 2021, according to city data.

“This is an opportunity for us to evolve policing, to focus our sworn police on the violent people who use guns to kill women, children, grandparents on our streets and to focus about their withdrawal from the communities,” Mayor Scott told CNN in an interview.

Under the proposal, civilians would only participate in investigations of homicides or other violent crimes if they are classified by the police department as cold cases.

“It really helps us become a more 21st century police service,” Scott said. “It will help us in the short term, but also in the long term, as we build those relationships, freeing up hours and hours and hours of patrol for our officers to do what we want them to do, but also providing ‘other jobs and opportunities, then a new gateway into our department.’

Harrison said the department will design a training program that identifies the needs of inexperienced candidates and those who are seasoned and highly experienced investigators.

“We want to let people know to make sure they’re complying with state law, department policy, how we do things governed by policy, and the consent decree here in Baltimore. before employing them and sending them out to conduct investigations,” Harrison said.

The city of Baltimore has been under a federal consent decree since 2017 that mandates systemic reform of its police department after the Justice Department ordered a civil rights investigation that uncovered a “pattern or practice of constitutional violations”, including excessive force and racist arrests. .

Harrison said he anticipates the positions, which are expected to be posted in late May, will attract former police officers of various ranks from different departments who will either apply for retirement or in addition to another role.

Candidates would be vetted through a background check and would be required to complete at least a month-long training program before being assigned to a section.

“We’re looking for people who have some law enforcement or investigative experience,” he said. “Not all investigators work in law enforcement, but [they] certainly know how to conduct investigations.”

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