The Baltimore Police Org Chart: A Journey
Updated: Jul 19
Michael Harrison, the new commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), has restructured and downsized the department. It seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the department's structure in recent history, because it has been quite a journey.
Once upon a time, there was "administrative" and "operations":
The BPD organizational chart in 2010, under Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, was mostly straightforward and logical. The Administrative Bureau ran the business of the department, while Operations oversaw crime-fighting. There were no names or ranks on this chart. Most of the squads were two to three steps removed from the commissioner.
"Operations" was divided into "Patrol," which oversaw the nine districts and some related citywide squads, like traffic, canine, and bookings; and "Criminal Investigations," which handled crimes like murder, robbery, and rape.
Already, there were some very early signs of the complexity and bloat that would come to take over the department over the next decade. Under Criminal Investigation were the Violent Crime Impact Section (VCIS) "modules" as well as other alphabet squads, as they have been called. VCIS cops wore plainclothes on the street and often rode in unmarked vehicles. They earned a reputation in the community as "jumpers" or "knockers" for their surprise-attack approach. VCIS' nominal mandate was to address violence, but they focused largely on drug and gun arrests.
Patrol was officially the backbone of the agency but ambitious cops sought their way out of patrol quickly to get onto one of these squads. The alphabet squads were largely male-dominated and contributed to a culture that kept women mostly out of command. Probably not unrelated, many of them had serious issues with corruption and brutality complaints.
Within alphabet row was also a squad initially designed to "trace" guns as part of a federal initiative. Within a few years, it would become another plainclothes street squad, the notorious Gun Trace Task Force.
In terms of accountability, in 2010, the department had Internal Investigations (aka Internal Affairs) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which both reported directly to the commissioner but otherwise functioned independently. In theory, that meant that these divisions could investigate, say, deputy commissioners, without a direct conflict, besides the commissioner.
After Bealefeld left, the next four commissioners/acting commissioners played a role in transforming the department into one that was less vertical and more horizontal, among other issues.
In 2012, new Commissioner Anthony Batts rebuilt the house of BPD by adding a big new wing and painting a coat of fresh initials. He first introduced his changes in this document (page 18), which eventually developed into the following structure:
Batts created a handful of new bureaus, divisions, squads, and administrative roles that increased overhead in the budget. He separated Operations into two crime-fighting bureaus. He got rid of the Administrative Bureau and created the new "Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau." The rest of what used to be Administrative was now under "Management Services."
The Patrol Bureau grew a Chief under the Deputy and a third patrol "area." This meant there were more commanders overseeing the same number of districts.
Batts also rearranged departments in ways that didn't always make sense, putting some squads in unexpected places. For instance, each Area Patrol Commander was also now overseeing citywide squads that had nothing to do with their districts - like the Special Enforcement Section (SES) under the Area 2 commander.
SES was the latest incarnation of those VCIS modules, now buried deep in the org chart. When Batts started, he had been advised by the Fraternal Order of Police to get rid of VCIS and move those officers back into patrol. VCIS officers were collecting the most misconduct and brutality complaints. Batts didn't follow their guidance. He renamed VCIS as SES (see page 56 for his rationale). SES was overseen by future GTTF leader Sean Miller. GTTF also became a street squad under Batts.
Batts initiated a new era of accountability divisions in BPD, one of his major talking points in press conferences and reflective of trends in policing in the 2010s. The new Professional Standards and Accountability bureau contained a new (vaguely defined) Office of Internal Oversight, which oversaw a new Force Investigation Team, as well as, for some reason, Evidence Control.
Batts wasn't always clear on some of the ethical issues around police investigating themselves, though. This was even more apparent in his original version of the chart, which had a truly bonkers supervisory flow:
In this earlier version of Batts' org chart, EEOC reported to IAD, which created legal and ethical issues. He later fixed this. Still, EEOC remained less independent from IAD than it should've been. (One untold BPD story I have heard a lot is how IAD has been used to retaliate against or thwart EEOC complainants.)
Also, Batts created a possible conflict of interest by having the same supervisors that oversaw training and recruitment overseeing Internal Affairs. Would IAD be free to proceed with an investigation of training staff, say, if the same supervisor of both divisions was on the line? There was a reason that Internal Affairs and EEOC were originally as independent as possible.
In 2015, Batts was fired, and his deputy Kevin Davis took over. Davis cleaned up patrol, but otherwise exacerbated the administrative bloat. He shifted around his department a lot over his first year. Here was the chart by July 2017:
One might experience motion sickness trying to make sense of the new divisions and departments - "Strategic Services," "Special Operations and Development," which is not to be confused with "Special Operations," and a couple of vague but powerful "Executive Officers."
(Note: here is the 2016 version with the notorious GTTF squad, back when there was a whole column filled with alphabet squads.)
Davis' organization became dramatically more horizontal: Batts had five commanders reporting to him directly; Davis had nine. Batts had four commanders titled as "Chief," a number 3 position; Davis had eleven. While surely Davis' allies appreciated the pay bump, his promotions and new positions cost the city a lot.
Davis dissolved Batts' Accountability/Standards bureau but instead decentralized accountability. DOJ compliance, Quality Control, EEOC, Internal Affairs, inspections, etc. were literally all over the place. A dozen squads were investigating the department and not necessarily communicating results to each other. This was the era under which Wayne Jenkins turned GTTF into his own unaccountable gang that committed multiple crimes across various categories.
Overall Davis' organizational chart gave the impression of power dynamics that may have made sense to BPD insiders but didn't translate to a logical story for outside eyes. It may have been more about people and power than what was good for the city in the long-term.
Davis was fired in 2018, and Darryl DeSousa took over. He cut some of the horizontal bloat, but the organization of his bureaus was as confusing as ever:
Operations was now limited mostly to patrol units. The other bureau, "Support Services," oversaw... basically everything else in the agency related to crime and some formerly administrative divisions. Why were Recruitment and Training with Homeland Security?
DeSousa's organizational chart received the most positive attention for its advancement of black and female leaders. It received the most negative attention for whom he put in place under him. Support Services Deputy Andre Bonaparte was an old friend of DeSousa's that had not been a police officer for ten years. DeSousa gave him most of the department to oversee. Operations Deputy Thomas Cassella was an ally of the mayor, which may have had something to do with his limited scope of work. (He never got a chance to earn the position, after his alleged Internal Affairs record was leaked to the public.)
Three months into his term, DeSousa himself was indicted and left the job.
Gary Tuggle, the Deputy that replaced Casella, took over as Acting Commissioner. He shuffled things around a bit more:
In the fallout of GTTF, the department grew even more accountability departments - Overtime Audit, Internal Audit, Anti-Corruption, Constitutional Policing (not to be confused with 21st Century Policing), in addition to the ones that existed, like EEOC, IAD, SIRT, etc. Again, these divisions were dispersed. Some of the people put in charge of these divisions were publicly known to have been investigated themselves for misconduct, which happens when you have more accountability jobs than commanders with clean records.
Enter Commissioner Michael Harrison in January of this year. Harrison has made a number of staffing cuts and demotions, bringing the organizational chart back to the streamlined, vertical appearance it had in 2010. His efforts have been guided by some of the people that were in charge back then. The chart even has an old fashioned font!
BPD is back to Operations (crime-fighting) and Administrative (management). Gone is that Strategic Services Bureau that was so vaguely named it could take on anything. Besides his deputies, there are now just two people reporting directly to Harrison.
There's still a big emphasis on accountability on Harrison's chart, but streamlined under two Bureaus. "Compliance" seems largely focused around the Department of Justice Consent Decree implementation. The "Public Integrity" Bureau is a bit concerning for two reasons: First, there is a high-paid, powerful Deputy overseeing only two departments and in charge of all punitive measures; second, the SIRT/Anti-Corruption division is reporting to IAD, creating possible conflicts. (I will write about this separately soon.)
Time will tell what value Harrison brings to Baltimore. Given his enormous financial reward - and the high-ranking positions being offered to people he selects to bring from outside - it seems only fair that he is saving the city money by cutting back on command.
The BPD organizational chart will never tell the full story of BPD. Most internal investigations never even make it as far as Internal Affairs, for instance. We also know that Batts instituted a dramatic shift in the patrol schedule that became codified into the police contract.
Still, it's clear that in less than a decade, the department's organizational chart ballooned into overflowing commanders, confusing lines of supervision, and fragmented and conflicted accountability initiatives.
Is it possible that the organizational chart is a reflection - or even cause - of other issues in Baltimore crime in the last decade? The city will theorize about why crime skyrocketed in April 2015 and how GTTF was allowed to flourish unchecked for a long time. What is clear is that, from 2012 to 2018, the department's bureaucracy became dizzying and bloated.
Even if Harrison revision is beneficial, the bigger problem will persist: The citizens of Baltimore have little to no say in how the department spends its money, organizes its functions, and staffs its command positions. Each new commissioner has had too much unchecked power to disrupt radically, reward allies, and consolidate power.