BPD Modernization and Reform


From a systemic perspective, Baltimore’s high crime rate reflects forces that have operated for decades or centuries, like racial inequity, poverty, deindustrialization, even the U.S. foreign policy which helped to create today’s supply chains for illegal drugs arriving through Baltimore’s port. 

The approach to public safety that we need now must include a retooling of the Baltimore Police Department for the 21st century. We’ve tried the broken windows, “tough on crime” approach to reducing crime, and it did not work. 

The BPD of the future will be efficient and smart, using the latest technology; it will proactively engage the community to rebuild trust and credibility; it will be guided by a harm reduction and peace-building approach; it will save the taxpayer money that is currently being spent on unplanned overtime and lawsuits stemming from errant behavior; and it will forge new cross-sector, multidisciplinary partnerships to do so.

There are several practical steps we can take today that will begin to reform and modernize the department while meeting the demands of the Consent Decree. (FN1)  As Councilwoman, Paris will focus on:

  • Investing in 21st technology. Technology is one of BPD’s biggest challenges, and remedying deficiencies related to technology is a key requirement of the Consent Decree. As found by a Technology Resource Study prepared for the Court pursuant to the Consent Decree, (FN2) BPD’s technology problems go much further than the fact that the Department uses antiquated software like Lotus Notes for critical functions. Additionally, there is no truly centralized IT department at BPD, making the implementation of new technology unnecessarily difficult. In addition, the Study found that there is a lack of adequate training and little communication or data sharing between databases and departments of BPD. BPD must:
    • Make investments in technology and training necessary to use new technology, as required by the Consent Decree.
    • Move away from manual, paper-based processes that are inefficient, slow, and result in errors. 
    • Centralize IT functions and move away from systems that do not easily share data department wide

The audit of Baltimore Police overtime specifically found that lax controls related to paper-based processes are costing us tens of millions every year,(FN3) but that’s not all. These inefficiencies make us less safe when they prevent us from putting more officers out on proactive community patrol, and waste money that could be spent on needed investments like youth employment and treatment for trauma and addiction. Therefore, Paris will work to:

  • Civilianize the police force to reduce costs and get more than 32% of our sworn officers out on patrol. When the need for more officers is highlighted, there’s a crucial fact to remember: only 32% of our sworn police officers are actually allocated to patrol.(FN4) Many sworn officers are working desk jobs that civilians can perform.

BPD must hire civilians to the 60 positions identified by the Crime Reduction and Departmental Transformation Plan as able to be performed by civilians, (FN5) so that more commissioned officers may be assigned to patrol. We can meet much of our need for officers and overcome our recruitment difficulties simply by making this change. 

  • Hire more women and bi-lingual officers to the sworn police force. A diverse Baltimore Police Department is better equipped to keep us safe. Currently, only 16% of BPD officers are women.(FN6) Women experience public safety much differently than men, and therefore enforce laws and respond to emergencies differently. BPD must:
    • Develop and publish a plan to reach gender parity in the sworn police force
    • Hire more multilingual officers to patrol communities with large international or immigrant populations, specifically Southeast Baltimore.
  • A more efficient dispatch system to cut down on response times. As part of the recently released Comprehensive Violence Reduction Plan, BPD has set a goal of reducing its average response time to 911 calls to 10 minutes. Right now, emergency calls sometimes take significantly longer than 10 minutes, so meeting this goal would be a welcome improvement. However, for a relatively dense City with a comparatively high rate of officers per capita, a better response time should be achievable. Baltimore’s 40.6 officers per 10,000 persons (FN7) is among the highest concentrations in the U.S. By comparison, San Francisco’s average response time of less than 5 minutes (FN8) is achieved by a force of only 26.4 officers per 10,000 residents. BPD must:
    • Improve dispatch processes to reduce dispatch time. 
    • Study and implement best practices for reducing response time. 

1 City of Baltimore Consent Decree

2 Baltimore Police Department, Technology Resource Study

3 Baltimore City Department of Finance, Report on Overtime at the Baltimore Police Department

4 Police Foundation, Baltimore Police Department Staffing Study (Calculated by dividing total filled patrol positions by total filled sworn officer positions)

5 Baltimore Police Department, Crime Reduction and Departmental Transformation Plan

6 Baltimore Sun, Only 16% of Baltimore police officers are women. Meet the female commanders helping to change that

7 Governing, Police Employment, Officers Per Capita Rates for U.S. Cities

8 San Francisco Police Department, Police Response to Serious Incidents