The Baltimore Police Department plans to become one of the first in the country to hire civilians as investigators in its detective force, due to ongoing staffing shortages caused by rising homicides and shootings.
Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the city would hire civilian detectives to work on low-level property crimes, cold cases, background checks, intelligence collection, and internal affairs problems, as part of the plan.
The city’s planned $4 billion budget for the coming fiscal year includes a new civilianization categorization that would increase staff capacity to “maximize the effectiveness of limited sworn resources.”
Baltimore’s plan comes as some police departments in cities across the country have raised the alarm on current and future staffing levels.
They cite Covid-19, the great resignation, low pay, the climate for law enforcement, and local reform efforts for making are making recruitment and retention difficult.
Harrison claimed the plan is cost neutral because the city will convert 30 sworn officer positions that are currently vacant into 35 civilian roles that would have a starting salary of $49,000.
The mayor’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy will be supported by nine civilian posts, while the department’s Telephone Reporting Unit will be bolstered by 12 civilian support roles.
Harrison said: “This plan is not about taking away jobs from sworn members of the department.
“It is about growing the department and creating additional civilian capacity while being smart about how we deploy officers.
“We are aligning our staffing plan and our budget resources to bring qualified professional staff to work alongside our officers to prevent, deter and reduce crime more effectively.”
Since the pandemic, Baltimore, like many other cities around the country, has seen an increase in violent crime.
The city has registered 96 killings and 193 non-fatal shootings since the beginning of this year, up from 88 homicides and 160 non-fatal shootings during the same period in 2021.
Mayor Scott told: “This is an opportunity for us to evolve policing, to focus our sworn police officers on violent folks who are using guns to kill women, children, grandparents on our streets and focus on removing them from the communities,”