Amid murder spike in Baltimore, city police deny claims of imminent precinct closures

Department hired hundreds of officers last year, police commissioner says.

Published: April 22, 2021 12:25pm

Updated: April 22, 2021 11:37pm

The Baltimore Police Department is flatly denying claims that it is pursuing the closure of two police precincts in the city, disputing claims from the local police union that officers are fleeing the force due mainly to a combination of job grievances and a climate of opinion hostile to police. 

The city's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 earlier this week tweeted that Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison "will need to close 2 police districts" and that the city's police patrol "has fallen below 700 sworn officers."

"81 officers have fled [force] this year, outpacing last year," the union said in a followup tweet. "Pay, working conditions, and the anti-policing climate are the primary reasons. BPD leadership must begin to treat our officers as the professionals they are!"

Police across the country have been the targets of significant criticism and hostility over the past year following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd while in the custody of city police there. Criticisms of "pay" and "working conditions," meanwhile, were plainly a pointed dig at Baltimore Police Department administrators; such drama is not uncommon between police union representatives and the leaders of municipal law enforcement. 

Yet the city's police department is flatly disputing at least one claim by the police union, denying that there are any plans in the works to close any of the city's nine police districts. 

Police department spokesman Detective Donny Moses shared with Just the News a statement from Commissioner Harrison branding the closure rumors "completely false."

"There have never been any conversations at any level with anyone related to the closing of any police districts during my administration," Harrison said, adding that the police department in 2020 "hired more officers (224 Officers) than in any year in over a decade," while the year before it "also saw the fewest number of sworn separations in a decade."

When asked about the FOP's claims that over 80 officers have "fled" the force this year, Moses said, "You are going to have to reach out to the FOP for clarity on that statement." 

Data from the police department show that the number of officers on the force has fallen from 2,805 in 2014 to just under 2,400 this year. The department has experienced a net loss of 55 officers between the end of 2020 and this week. 

The FOP Lodge 3 did not respond to queries regarding its statements on Twitter. 

Baltimore sees murder spike; some other crimes up

The tension between the police union and the police department comes amid a notable uptick in homicides and several other crimes in the city. 

Murder rates in major U.S. cities spiked last year and continued to be elevated into the new year. In Baltimore, murder rates are similarly elevated: The city's most recent crime data show year-over-year spikes in murders ranging from 14% (year-to-date) to 45% (over the most recent 28-day period). 

Certain robberies, such as those at gas stations and convenience stores, are also up year-to-date, as are both attempted and forced rapes, though both types of crimes have either remained flat or decreased year-over-year in recent weeks. 

The elevated murder rate has not escaped the notice of the Baltimore FOP. "The City Delegation in Annapolis did nothing to fix this problem in the last session!" the union said in a tweet earlier this week, referencing the spike in murders. 

The city itself has historically been one of the more violent urban regions in the country. In recent years it has consistently recorded more than 300 murders per year, with an adjusted yearly murder rate in some cases ten times the national average. 

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