On a recent evening, Baltimore police trainees stood together on a gas station parking lot, across the street from a quiet corner where until recently drug dealers plied their trade, reports the Baltimore Sun. The officers watch vehicles pass and remind drivers to turn on their headlights as they leave the gas station. This is how the 45 members of the recruit class will probably spend their first year as police officers, standing on corners in high-crime neighborhoods. It has been said that the only way to halt crime is to put a police officer on every corner. In two Baltimore neighborhoods, that’s what Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark has done.
The recruits form what Clark calls his district stabilization unit. He says working in the unit is the best way for rookies to learn about interacting with the public, and he says the program has already helped in blighted areas. Critics say the increased police presence merely pushes problems elsewhere. Some say the duties drive down morale and that the limited scope of the recruits’ experience will inadequately prepare them for jobs patrolling the violent city. Edward Mamet, a retired New York police captain who heads police training consulting service, is unimpressed with New York City’s similar program. “Because they’re on a fixed post they can’t do very much,” he said. “They just stand there.”