Maryland lost 290 police officers between 2000 and 2003, according to new Census Bureau estimates, as departments struggle to retain the officers they have and hire replacements for the ones who are leaving. Police officials say that natural attrition, combined with Maryland’s relatively high standards for recruits and competition with federal agencies for officers, is making qualified candidates hard to come by, reports the Capital News Service. At the same time, a federal program that had helped some smaller departments hire officers ended in September.
“We’re all losing personnel,” said Mount Rainier Police Chief H. Frederick Keeney, who is also president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. “What the feds don’t take from us they take from the applicant pool.” Despite the drop, most police agencies contacted said they are getting by — and crime stats back them up. According to the FBI, violent crimes in Maryland fell by about 10 percent and property crimes fell by more than 5 percent from 2000 to 2003. But most also said they would welcome more bodies. Shortages are being seen across the board. Maryland State Police are authorized for 1,596 troopers, but it currently is about 77 troopers shy.