They look like police officers, they act like police officers, and since yesterday, they can write you a ticket like a police officer.
They are the blue-clad, official-looking "traffic directors" who guide commuters at the city's busiest intersections during rush hour. Now with the help of a new law, these traffic directors can issue citations for running red lights and disobeying directives and other moving violations.
"This gives the officers a tool to persuade the public to do what it is supposed to do," said Dave L. Montgomery, deputy director of the Baltimore Department of Public Works.
Until now, the traffic directors officially called "special traffic enforcement officers" in the Department of Public Works could cite drivers only for parking violations, and only Baltimore City police officers could ticket for moving violations.
But under legislation signed into law by the mayor in 1993, the Police Department recently commissioned the public works officers as bona fide ticket-givers. This frees police to pursue other crimes, police officials said.
"They won't be shooting radar or pulling speeders over," said police Lt. J. D. Smith, who helped train the traffic officers.
The 27 traffic officers will smooth commutes at 24 intersections during rush hours. They also will use their new powers while providing traffic control during parades and events at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Lawbreaking motorists who aren't fooled by the dark uniform that resembles a police officer's have tried to bully the traffic directors and ignore their directives.
"We have had some [traffic directors] who have been attacked," Mr. Montgomery said. "None has been run over. Some have been hit. It is a very intense job, and they have to be on their feet."
The traffic directors have issued parking tickets since 1993. But last week they ended four days of training by police officers, who taught them the correct way to flag moving violators. They spent two days in class and two days training on the streets.
"We taught them how to make an approach on the vehicle, what to look for and what to do if they should get in trouble," Lieutenant Smith said.
Mr. Montgomery said police officers always will be in radio contact with the traffic directors and will assist with unlawful motorists.