On a cold, rainy day last month, 36 Baltimore police officers who normally patrol the Northern District sat behind classroom desks, learning how to become the Complete Officer. The lecturer, Eric Greitens, was a former Navy SEAL who led missions in Fallujah, Iraq, to hunt down insurgents. The city officers copied down four phrases he wrote on a white board: No worse enemy. No better friend. No better diplomat. No better role model. Those words, Greitens said, are meant to remind officers that if they want to win a crime war, they will need the help and respect of the people they serve.
The class is part of an unprecedented effort to retrain a police force dizzied by years of shifting crime-fighting strategies from a parade of short-term police commissioners. Now the mission has moved again, and commanders want officers to build alliances in the communities while confronting the most violent people. The Baltimore Police Department is fighting a reputation for taking a rough-and-tumble approach that can alienate city residents. The class was the beginning of a planned two-year effort to put all 2,900 officers on the city force through a month of training.