Three hours into his shift, the Baltimore police officer has already responded to a dozen emergency calls stretched across 6.3 square miles of city real estate, one patrol car covering an expanse designed for three, says Baltimore Sun crime reporter Peter Hermann. Residents are calling 911 and not getting help. Calls are piling up. “We’re a poor city, I understand that,” the officer says. “But just give us the basics.” Police brass won’t acknowledge it, but officers say that there are not enough of them to fill their patrol cars, a situation that they say leaves residents unprotected.
Department commanders insist they are just a handful of officers short of being fully-staffed at 3,071. That number counts those unavailable or unable to work because of extended sick or injury leave, on military duty, and on suspension. Compounding the problem are “ghost-shifts” of officers moved to replace entire platoons spending a month at a time in training. An officer invited Hermann out to show how he felt a “fully staffed” department had plenty of staffing left to do. Frustrated, he risked his career to put a reporter in his patrol car without authorization from commanders, who when they discovered the trip launched a department-wide inquiry to learn the officer’s name.