Baltimore used a “Fit to Serve” boot camp for police recruits this summer, one of several initiatives Mayor Catherine Pugh is rolling out to attract more candidates, including minorities and women, the Baltimore Sun reports. The class meets three times a week at the police academy and is open to both recruits and sworn officers. The fitness requirement is a “huge barrier” for many recruits, said Major Brian Hance, who heads police recruitment. In 2017, 20 percent of applicants failed the fitness test on their first try, including 55 percent of women. Rather than turn away candidates who can’t pass the test, “we want to work with them,” Hance said. “There’s a lot of good people out here.”
Baltimore, like many large law enforcement agencies, has struggled to fill its ranks in recent years. Baltimore saw a significant increase in officer departures after the 2015 unrest and the arrest of six officers in the death of Freddie Gray. In 2015, the department hired 91 officers and lost 249, for a net loss of 158. In 2016, it hired 111 and lost 225, for a net loss of 114. In 2017, 203 officers left the department and 207 were hired, for a net gain of four. The department has about 500 fewer sworn officers than it did in 2012. A new report by the department and the Police Foundation found that the city failed to prioritize patrol positions, leaving a 26.6 percent vacancy rate, significantly higher compared with other areas. The department has had to rely on overtime to make sure enough officers are on duty, creating perennial problems with soaring overtime costs. The department spent $47.2 million on overtime in the last fiscal year, even though only $16 million was budgeted. Pugh has asked the Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded “Innovation Team” to figure out how to recruit more police officers and retain them.