The Baltimore Police Department is looking to fill more than 230 police positions this year.
In a joint press conference in January, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis stressed that the City is in need of more officers.
“We do not have enough police officers who live in our City, so I want to say this to all of Baltimore, we're hiring. We need people from Baltimore to step up to the plate,” said Mayor Pugh.
Hiring more than 200 officers is a lofty goal compared to years past. In 2014, the department hired 184 officers. In 2015, that number fell to 91. By the end of 2015, the department had 229 vacancies.
“Let’s really not kid ourselves about attrition. So over the last couple of years, our attrition rate, the number of people resigning, the number of people quitting, the number of people retiring has exceeded our hiring rate,” said Commissioner Davis.
He added that the department took a hit following the riots and unrest surrounding Freddie Gray's death.
The department then saw an uptick in 2016 with 122 new officers hired, but with 131 current vacancies and Mayor Pugh authorizing the unfreezing of 100 new positions, they're relying on their recruitment officers to pull double duty.
“We're doing everything we can to recruit. We're going out to job fairs, we're recruiting on Facebook, we're recruiting on social media, “ said Baltimore Police Sgt. Regina Richardson in the Recruitment Unit. “We're calling people who have applied in the past that sort of fell off the radar.”
Last summer, the department took their job search out of the continental U.S., spending $20,000 on a recruitment trip to Puerto Rico to hire bilingual officers.
“Not just going to Puerto Rico, we go to New York to test at John Jay [College of Criminal Justice], which is a criminal college, we go everywhere we can to try and recruit people to Baltimore,” Richardson said.
Sergeant Richardson also tries to sell candidates on the competitive job salary and opportunities that come with working in a big city agency.
“We have a lot of different units, not just the ones that everybody knows, homicide, sex offense, child abuse. We have computer crimes, we have witness relocation, we have things behind the scenes, a fiscal unit, all kinds of other opportunities,” said Richardson.
But while the department is in need of recruits, they don't take just anyone. There are a series of tests someone has to pass before being considered for the police academy.
“You take the civil service exam, pass that and you'll go have a physical by a doctor. Once you have that physical, you're in good enough health, you'll come see us and then we'll administer the physical agility test to you,” said Baltimore Police Officer Frankie Wilson.
Applicants must complete 29 sit-ups in one minute, 20 or 10 push-ups depending on your gender, and a 1.5 mile run in under 16 minutes and 28 seconds.
Officer Wilson called the test a benchmark to gauge someone’s physical ability, but that once they’re accepted into the police academy, the fitness expectations are on a different level.
“Once you get here, all that basically goes out the window and we hold you to a much higher benchmark because we want you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. That way when you go out in the street you perform at your optimal levels,” said Wilson.
During the six-month academy, recruits undergo physical and mental challenges. They also must successfully complete a background investigation, polygraph test, and psychological examination before being offered a position on the force.
“Just knowing that I impacted somebody's life in some small way in the course of my duty gives to me great satisfaction,” said Wilson.
Recruitment officers expect around 50 people to attend Saturday’s agility test. The test is held once a month and the civil service test is offered Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. at Baltimore Police Headquarters located at 601 East Fayette Street.
For more information on the Baltimore Police Department application process, click here.