The Baltimore Police Department, or BPD, provides police services to the city of Baltimore, Maryland, Maryland and was officially established by the Maryland Legislature on March 16, 1845. It is organized into ten districts, nine based on geographical areas and the Public Housing Section, and is responsible for policing 79 square miles of land and 13 square miles of waterways.


The first attempt to establish a police department in Baltimore occurred in 1784, nearly 60 years after the founding of the original town, when a guard force of constables were authorized to enforce town laws and arrest those in violation. In 1845 the current Baltimore Police Department was founded by the state legislature “to provide for a better security for life and property in the City of Baltimore". In 1861, during the U.S. Civil War the police department was taken over by the federal government and run by the U.S. Military until it was turned back over to the legislature in 1862.

BPD has evolved its crime fighting technology and techniques over the years beginning with the introduction of call boxes in 1885. Other major technological upgrades include the introduction of the Bertillion system in 1896, police radio communications in 1933, a police laboratory in 1950, computerized booking procedures and 911 emergency systems in 1985, the first ever 311 non emergency system and CCTV cameras (like those in the United Kingdom) in 1996, and the CompStat system in 2000.

As of a 2000 survey published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003, BPD is the 8th largest municipal police department in the United States with a total of 3,034 police officers. Comparatively as of the 2000 U.S. census Baltimore ranked as the 17th largest city in the United States with a population of 651,154.

The first BPD officer to die in the line of duty occurred when Sergeant William Jourdan was shot and killed by an unknown gunman during the first city council elections on October 14 1857. Night Watchman George Workner was the first law enforcement officer to be killed in the city when he was stabbed during an escape attempt by nine inmates in the Baltimore Jail on March 14 1808, but his death predates the founding of the department. As of 2006 there have been 118 police officers killed in the line of duty, which is by far the largest total in Maryland. The next largest total belongs to the Maryland State Police, with 39 troopers killed in the line of duty as of 2005.

African Americans in the department

Violet Hill Whyte became the BPD's first African American officer in 1937 and Henry Smith Jr. was the first African American officer to die in the line of duty in 1962. The department itself had not fully integrated until 1966 as according to Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon, African American officers were not given full authority as officers in the department until this year. Prior to 1966, African American officers were limited to foot patrols as they were barred from the use of squad cars and often were assigned to undercover positions in predominantly African American police districts. Furthermore, African American officers were often subject to racial harassment and the silent treatment from both their Caucasian coworkers and African American citizens in the communities they patrolled. It was not uncommon for African American officers to daily encounter degrading racial graffiti on the restroom walls of the very districts/units they were assigned to and racial slurs from white co-workers during roll call. During this time period, two future police commissioners of Baltimore, Bishop L. Robinson and Edward J. Tilghman were amongst Baltimore's African American police officers.

Little trust existed between the department and the largely African American city during a time where African Americans in urban areas in particular were growing disenfranchised with the lack of progress of the civil rights movement. Racial riots due to police brutality were occurring all over America, and the racial mistreatment at the hands of several White officers labeled Baltimore as a trouble spot for violence. The police force at the time was also under study of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as the department was severely troubled at the time. The IACP report showed the BPD to be the most corrupt and antiquated in the nation with an almost non-existent relationship with Baltimore's African American community. The changes demanded in the department occurred almost overnight with the hiring of new police commissioner Donald Pomerleau. Pomerleau himself was an ex-marine who authored the IACP report committed to changing the department and improving relations with Baltimore's African American community.

Since Pomerleau's hiring, the department made reforms time to improve the relations with Baltimore's growing African American community. Through affirmative action, an increase in minority recruits, and an end to segregationist practices, the department had undergone integration. In 1971, the Vanguard Justice Society was founded, an organization representing the rights and interests of the department's African American officers. By 1973, an African American major James Watkins was present commanding a tactical unit in the Western District,the district home to many of Baltimore's historical African American landmarks and neighborhoods. In 1984, Bishop L. Robinson was named as Baltimore's first African American Police Commissioner.The department also redefined several of it's racial policies in direct response to riots in Los Angeles and Miami as a means of avoiding similar racial tension in a city with a larger percentage of African American citizens.

Currently, the department is administered by Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and Deputy Commissioner of Administration Deborah A. Owens, both of whom are white and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Anthony Barksdale who is African American.

During Martin O'Malley's administration as mayor, the department had become 43% African American. While progress has been made to improve the department's relationship with Baltimore's now majority African American community, improvements are still being made to the department which for several years has been subject to criticism for its treatment of African American citizens.

BPD Today


Baltimore Police Districts.

BPD, like many other police departments in the United States, has experienced negative publicity in recent years due to a few high profile corruption and brutality allegations, including the 2005 arrest of Officers William A. King and Antonio L. Murray by the FBI for federal drug conspiracy charges, and the beating death of inmate Raymond Smoot.

Former Commissioner Ed Norris was indicted on three charges by US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio. Two of the counts charged Norris had made illegal personal expenditures from the Baltimore Police Department’s supplemental account. The third count alleged that he had lied on a mortgage application, stating that approximately $9,000 he received from his father was not a gift—as was stated in the loan papers—but a loan. As part of a plea bargain in May 2004, Norris pleaded guilty to the first two counts and was sentenced to six months in federal prison, six months of home detention, and 500 hours of community service, which Judge Dick Bennett said must be served in Baltimore. The plea bargain avoided a possible 30-year sentence on the mortgage fraud charge.

A rash of high profile corruption and brutality allegations have surfaced in late 2005 and early 2006, including the suspensions and arrests of Southwestern District flex squad officers for the alleged rape of a 22 year old woman they had taken into custody for illegal possession of narcotics. All criminal charges against the accused officers have since been dropped.

Stories surfaced about flex squad officers planting evidence on citizens. Murder charges were dropped by the city when it was revealed that the gunman was dropped off in rival gang territory after a police interrogation in a squad car. The man was beaten badly and exacted his revenge the next day. The squad's role in the shooting prompted State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy to drop the charges.

Amid all this, intense criticism has surfaced regarding so-called "stop-and-frisk" arrest procedures and their alleged misuse by the BPD. The president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, Lieutenant Paul Blair, has stated that there are arrest quotas at work in the police department which lead to Baltimore's astronomical arrest rate, and to roughly 1/3 of the charges being dismissed by the State's Attorney's office.

Many of these arrests were for "quality of life" violations such as drinking in public, loitering and public urination. Criminal citations have generally been used for these types of offences however, BPD General Orders and State law forbid these being issued to persons not possessing a valid state issued identification. In cases where a defendant does not have the required identification, the officer may make an arrest.

In other media

BPD was portrayed in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street which ran for seven seasons and spawned a TV movie. The series is based on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon and was produced by Barry Levinson. HBO original series The Wire also features the department, portraying it as a dysfunctional organization whose effectiveness is often impaired by office politics. At times, there has also been crossover in stories and characters from Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street. The portrayals of Baltimore City has received negative criticism from Baltimore politicians such as former Mayor Martin O'Malley and current Mayor Sheila Dixon. The politicians have argued that the shows glorify the levels of violence within the city and have hence given Baltimore a negative image. The police department however has been more supportive of the shows, feeling that the crime within the city has been accurately portrayed. Several current and former members of the police force have served as technical advisors for the Baltimore based shows and some such as former Major Gary D'Addario have been dismissed from the department for their assistance to the show producers and directors.

On the TV series Rescue 911, which aired 1989-1996, a Baltimore police car was shown at the introduction to many stories.


In the early 1960s the Baltimore City Park Police were absorbed into the Baltimore Police Department. In 2005, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City Police were disbanded and operations taken over by the Baltimore Police Department. Housing Authority officers, if they desired, had to apply for jobs with the city police losing their time and seniority they had from previous employment with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. There is current talk of merging the Baltimore Schools Police into the department as well though it is unclear if those officers would have to reapply for positions within the Baltimore Police Department and what if any job benefits such as seniority and pension they might be able to bring with them in the new position.


The Baltimore Police Department is staffed by nearly 4000 civilian and sworn personnel. These include dispatchers, crime lab technicians, chaplains and unarmed auxiliary police.

Police Commissioners

  • Charles Howard, 1850-61
  • Nicholas L.Wood, 1862-64
  • Samuel Hindes, 1864-66
  • James Young, 1866-67
  • LeFevre Jarrett, 1867-70
  • John W. Davis, 1870-71
  • William H.B. Fusselbaugh, 1871-81
  • George Colton, 1881-87
  • Edson M. Schryver, 1887-97
  • Daniel C. Heddinger, 1897-1900
  • George M. Upsher, 1900-04
  • George R. Willis, 1904-08
  • Sherlock Swann, 1908-10
  • John B.A. Wheltle, 1910-12
  • Morris A. Soper, 1912-13
  • James McEvoy, 1913-14
  • Daniel C. Ammidon, 1914-16
  • Lawrason Riggs, 1916-20
  • Charles D. Gaither, 1920-37
  • William Lawson, 1937-38
  • Robert F. Stanton, 1938-43
  • Hamilton R. Atkinson, 1943-49
  • Beverly Ober, 1949-55
  • James M. Hepbron, 1955-61
  • Bernard Schmidt, 1961-66
  • Donald D. Pomerleau, 1966-81
  • Frank J. Battaglia, 1981-84
  • Bishop L. Robinson, 1984-87 (first African American commissioner)
  • Edward J. Tilghman, 1987-89
  • Edward V. Woods, 1989-93
  • Thomas C. Frazier, 1994-99
  • Ronald L.Daniel, 2000
  • Edward T. Norris, 2000-02
  • Kevin P. Clark, 2003-04
  • Leonard D. Hamm, 2004-2007
  • Frederick H. Bealefeld III, 2007-Present


The Baltimore Police Department fleet consists of primarily the Ford Crown Victoria and Chevrolet Impala. Some older Chevrolet Caprices may be seen as some are still in service. Motorcycles are Harley Davidson. Vehicles are white with blue and silver striping. A replica of an officer's badge is on the driver's and front passenger door.


The primary service weapon is the Glock 22 .40 calibre pistol. Officers are also issued a Monadnock expandable baton, koga stick and OC spray. Remington 870 shotguns are available as well as a less lethal model of the 870.

Contact Information

Section or District
c/o 242 W. 29th St.
MD 21211-2908
Phone: (410) 396-2411


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