Arguing that a police officer shortage is a major contributing factor to Baltimore’s crime problem, City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants to spend $2 million in city reserve funds to launch a new recruitment drive to fill the ranks, reports the Baltimore Sun. The proposal calls on Mayor Sheila Dixon to use the $2 million to pay for public service announcements, banners, and recruitment material geared toward high school graduates. Rawlings-Blake will also ask the state to contribute. Police vacancies have been a persistent problem for years, in part because Baltimore offers less pay than many surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland. The police department has money to pay more than 3,100 sworn positions, but 140 of those are vacant.
Rawlings-Blake was elected president by council members in January to fill the vacancy left when Dixon became mayor. She will seek a full four-year term in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary. Her proposal comes as the number of homicides in Baltimore rose to 124 yesterday, significantly higher than the 111 recorded at this point a year ago. Dixon said her top public safety aides have been studying recruitment and that her administration plans to report its findings soon.