The Baltimore Police Department is working hard to gain the trust of neighborhoods across the city after decades of discriminatory policing resulted in communities' decreased confidence, The Baltimore Banner reports. According to a report on the agency’s efforts to implement community policing, the police department has a long way to go in establishing good relationships with residents. The report, part of the department’s federally mandated consent decree, found that staffing shortages “continue to be a barrier” to establishing community trust through more proactive policing efforts. The community policing philosophy is based on the idea that officers form partnerships with community leaders to establish trust with residents that will result in more cooperation to help police solve violent crimes. The plan to have every beat officer regularly interact with their communities is a long way from being realistic, the report by the monitoring team found. “BPD will not be able to fulfill these requirements until it finds a way to free officer time to conduct meaningful community engagement ... and to measure that this engagement is having the intended outcomes,” the report said.
One goal shared in the report is to have every officer spend 40% of their time “engaging in proactive community policing,” which essentially means walking the neighborhoods they patrol on foot and responding to the concerns of residents. Instead, officers continue to spend too much of their time in their vehicles, and much of their time responding to calls, the monitoring team concluded. As part of the department’s efforts to engage with community members, it created “neighborhood coordination officers,” who are tasked with leading efforts in each police district to address problems that come up in speaking with residents. While those officers are active and known in the communities they serve, “beat officers generally are not,” the monitoring team concluded. “A number of people we spoke to said that they thought foot patrol is an important part of proactive policing, but officers are spending noticeably more time patrolling in their vehicles than they do on foot patrols,” the report said. Most districts don’t have enough neighborhood coordination officers, the report noted, “and that the NCOs who are assigned are often deployed to other more acute patrol responsibilities.”