More than 300 Baltimore PD employees quarantining for COVID
“The patrol shifts are very short at the moment. There is a lot of mandatory overtime," a union leader said
By Jessica Anderson
BALTIMORE — More than 300 Baltimore Police officers and other employees are quarantined because of COVID-19, a department spokeswoman said Monday.
Of those quarantined, 227 police personnel have tested positive and 78 are awaiting test results, spokeswoman Amanda Krotki said. That’s roughly 12% of the 2,500 member force.
Krotki did not provide information on how the department is handling staffing shortages, but added: “We’re all still working and protecting the city.”
Other area agencies also are experiencing COVID-related absences.
A Baltimore County police union official said about 6% of its 1,800 members are out, while a Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said the virus is currently hitting about 3% of its staff.
Law enforcement agencies and other front-line workers around the country are grappling with the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases that coincided with the emergence of the new omicron variant and following the holidays.
Baltimore Police officers, as well as all city employees are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine or face weekly testing. The department disclosed that about 65% of its personnel have been vaccinated.
More Marylanders were hospitalized Monday than at any other point during the pandemic, and more people are testing positive for the virus. The state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate stands at 26.87%, just shy of the state record.
The shortages due to COVID compound the staffing issues that have hindered Baltimore police for years.
Baltimore launched an aggressive marketing campaign two years ago seeking recruits to fill its depleted ranks, and in October increased starting pay for new officers.
Still, attrition continues to outpace hiring. According to recent departmental data, the department experienced a net loss of 92 officers last year — Baltimore hired 170 new officers, but 262 retired or otherwise left between January and November 2021.
Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Joy Stewart confirmed Monday night that approximately 6% of sworn and civilian staff were “impacted” by COVID-19 but said the count was “fluid and constantly changing.” She didn’t specify how many had tested positive or were quarantining after exposure.
[RELATED: COVID-19: Law enforcement deaths]
County police union leaders said staffing shortages are forcing officers to work mandatory overtime.
“The patrol shifts are very short at the moment. There is a lot of mandatory overtime and that becomes taxing on my members,” said Dave Folderauer, president for the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, who estimated about 100 of the approximately 1,800 employees were out due to COVD.
Folderauer said the county has been working to beef up staffing, but those new recruits won’t be out on the street for nine months.
“Hiring is a big thing, but hiring takes time,” he said. “I believe the numbers for Baltimore County in the current class is around 59, but we’re nine months away. That won’t have an impact on the agency at all until September or so.”
Stewart said Monday the department also had reestablished its telephone reporting team for non-emergency situations, limiting potential exposure and allowing for officers to stay on patrol.
Like Baltimore, Baltimore County requires testing for all unvaccinated employees. Folderauer said the FOP opposed the requirement, but said if the county is going to impose testing, it should include all employees.
“[I]f you have been vaccinated and you can still have COVID or contract COVID, you’re potentially spreading that and we’re not identifying that potential spread of the disease,” he said.
In Harford County, which does not have a vaccine or testing mandate, fewer officers have been sidelined. As of Monday, nine out of 297 deputies were out due to COVID, or about 3 percent of the force, said Cristie Hopkins, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
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