In their first joint press conference since Catherine Pugh was sworn in as Baltimore's 50th mayor, she and Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis gave something of a state of the Baltimore Police Department address: Where it was, what it is now and what it hopes to be in 2017.
"You will never hear me say when we are looking at our budgets and areas that we will cut, it will not be in patrol. It won’t be the firemen that have to answer to fires whenever they occur in our city and it won’t be sanitation workers who have to keep our city clean. That is not how we will do things in this administration," the mayor said.
The mayor was responding to recent comments from the police union.
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The FOP said earlier this week that the department is at a tipping point because patrol numbers have dropped, leaving both officers and the citizens at risk.
On Friday, the commissioner and the mayor called for an end to the current 10-hour shifts, four days a week schedule in favor of five days a week to allow flexibility with the current staffing levels of the department.
The FOP contract is up and in addition to putting scheduling back in the hands of the commissioner, the mayor also wants the union president to talk about transparency in police trial boards.
"I look forward to talking with you Gene [Lt. Gene Ryan], let the negotiations begin with citizens sitting on our trial boards. That is important to the people of our city," Pugh said.
Also of import, the mayor argued, is the impending consent decree.
Last summer, the Department of Justice blasted the department for unconstitutional practices, and is currently negotiating with city leaders for an action plan.
It will be expensive and federally mandated, but both Pugh and Davis said they hope to finally see it by next week.
Negotiations lasted into the wee hours of Friday morning.
Davis said to that end, he has committed to doubling the hours of in-service training for his officers from 20 to 40 a year.
Also, there will be a new policing strategy of focusing resources to specific geographic zones, while building relationships with the communities.
"They are the places where people have been hurt and they are victims of violence but what is different this time is that I am dedicating full time teams to these zones. They are gonna stay there throughout 2017, they are not gonna get distracted," Davis said.
And Pugh said she has a message for Baltimore: “We're hiring.”
She wants to see more people from Baltimore apply to become a Baltimore police officer.
Davis said the department is still recovering from attrition rates sparked by the riots of 2015 and hopes to see an increase in recruiting in 2017.
Currently, the Baltimore Police Department has 124 vacancies with an additional 225 positions frozen as part of the previous mayor’s last budget.