City police scale back foot-patrol policy

August 11, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,Sun reporter

Baltimore police commanders have quietly scaled back a policy that they initiated at the beginning of June to put 85 investigators a day on foot patrol.

The policy was announced simultaneously with Mayor Sheila Dixon's crime plan, which stresses improving relations with the community. Police commanders described it as a "shot in the arm" to the department's patrol division.

Initially, all detectives were assigned foot patrol duties, but commanders excused all homicide investigators within two weeks of announcing the program, after complaints that it might impair homicide investigations.

In late July, shortly after becoming the acting police commissioner, Frederick H. Bealefeld III approved further reductions to the program, said Sterling Clifford, a department spokesman. Now, the department sends 65 extra officers out on patrol each day, Clifford said.

These includes officers from the warrant apprehension task force, members of a new academy class and detectives who normally investigate rapes, shootings, robberies and burglaries.

"This is relatively new initiative," Clifford said. "You have to be able to strike a balance. It would be unrealistic to say the program on the fourth day would be the same as on the fourth month."

Late last month, commanders reduced from 10 to five the number of district detectives needed each day. The district detectives investigate shootings, robberies and burglaries.

Paul M. Blair Jr., head of the police union, opposed the program from the start, and he said the reduction is not enough.

"They are still robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said. "These detectives in the district still don't have enough extra people laying around."

The city has seen a 27 percent increase in shootings this year. Clifford said that the acting commissioner would prefer that the detectives who handle nonfatal shootings did not have to walk foot patrol - but if the need arises they are required to walk shifts.

Clifford stressed that the department has had positive feedback from comminutes about the program, and said commanders remain committed to the initiative.

"It's not that we need to scale this back," Clifford said. "It is shifting of priorities. What the department is doing is maximizing its resources."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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