Baltimore’s police department, already beset by a controversial death in custody and a soaring murder rate, is facing another headache: it’s shrinking fast. The number of uniformed officers in the city of 622,000 fell 6.1 percent last year and has shrunk by even more in the first half of this year, reports Reuters. The decline in 2015 was the greatest in police numbers among nine comparably sized U.S. cities.
The reasons for the decline are unclear, although budget pressures and a difficulty in attracting police candidates were cited by some observers. The city ended 2015 with 2,634 sworn officers, down from 2,805 a year earlier. From Jan. 1 to June 9 this year, the force shrank to 2,445 officers. “We’re operating short-handed,” said Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police union, who called the climate in the city since the controversial in-custody death of Freddie Gray a “morale killer.” A national FOP executive says the shortage of recruits is a broader trend.