Amid police staffing shortages, efforts to change eligibility requirements are considered

January 26, 2024

Fox5 News

While police departments across Maryland and in Baltimore City are experiencing staffing shortages, there are new efforts to change eligibility requirements to recruit more officers.

“There are a lot of Marylanders who are worried about crime in their neighborhood and around the state,” said Maryland Senator Cheryl Kagan. “One of the challenges is that we have a crisis level shortage in police officers.”

Kagan has introduced legislation to change the citizenship requirements for some police officer applicants in Maryland who have prior military service.

“It would allow legal permanent residents who have fought for our nation who have been in the military and been honorably discharged, it would allow them to apply to become police officers,” Kagan said.

Kagan said several states across the country already allow this.

“They have served our country, they have put their lives on the line,” Kagan said. “Now if they are willing to serve our communities, and put their lives on the line, again, keeping our keeping our neighborhoods safe, we should welcome them.”

In Baltimore City Mayoral Candidate Sheila Dixon’s Public Safety Plan, she mentioned a focus on police recruitment and retention to fill vacancies within Baltimore Police. As part of that, Dixon said she wants to evaluate eligibility requirements for police officers to make sure strong candidates aren’t excluded. In a document that outlines her plan, it said she will evaluate requirements around spelling tests and written exams, a candidate’s past and present affiliations, adjusting how crimes committed as a juvenile are viewed, financial history, and adapting the physical fitness standards to allow for improvement in the academy.

“I think any effort to try to fill open police positions by reducing minimum professional standards for applicants or for candidates for law enforcement positions is a bad idea,” said Jason Johnson, the former deputy police commissioner for the Baltimore Police Department. “While it may result in being able to fill those positions more quickly, it also results in filling those positions with people who are less qualified, and potentially more likely to not perform as well.”