About 500 police officers and their family members made a "show of force" in support of the Fraternal Order of Police campaign to encourage increased police funding as they gathered for a rally last night in front of City Hall.
Many in the crowd sported T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, "Welcome to Baltimore/Enter at your own risk," lettered in blue. The union also has plans to erect billboards with the same message, part of a campaign that is to include radio spots encouraging citizens to press politicians for more police funding.
"This is not a campaign that's going to end," said FOP President Don W. Helms. "We have to reach out to the citizens . . . to tell them we're really concerned about their protection, we're really concerned about their safety."
Mr. Helms reminded fellow officers that they took their jobs out of public concern, but that their good intentions had been frustrated.
"We cannot do the job any longer. We all know we're going out there short-handed," he said.
"You all know that, we know that, but nothing's been done to this point."
Mr. Helms urged citizens to form a coalition with the police union to press legislators in Annapolis for more police funding.
Alan L. Keyes, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, told the gathering that it was important for them to get their message to the grass roots, and not just in the city but statewide.
"Don't lose heart, because you will prevail," Mr. Keyes said.
One officer in attendance said it was time for the union to throw down the gauntlet.
"I think the FOP needs to get a little more stern and strict with the mayor and City Council," said Officer Charles Horney of the Eastern District.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke last week called the FOP campaign "irresponsible," saying that it was more about "the internal politics of the FOP than a legitimate concern about the welfare of this city's residents."