Home | BaltimoreBrew.com

Inside City Hall

Accountabilityby Mark Reutter9:28 amJun 20, 20240

Keeping Baltimore police well dressed is getting pricey

A Kentucky company is set to become the department’s uniform supplier in a deal that’s five-to-seven times more expensive than previous contracts

Above: Swearing-in ceremony for cadets graduating from the Baltimore Police Academy. (BPD)

Properly attired officers don’t come cheap. Baltimore Police are seeking $8.35 million to buy new uniforms and access specialized tailoring services at next week’s Board of Estimates meeting.

Even when spread across three years, the uniform request is five to seven times more than the historical cost of new uniforms.

This increase comes despite the decline in sworn positions on the force.

In fiscal 2015, when there were 2,512 patrol and criminal investigation positions, BPD was allotted $590,000 for uniforms.

Today there are 497 fewer sworn positions in those divisions.

Prior to that, between 2009 and 2013, the department’s uniform needs came to $400,000 a year, or one-seventh of the price of the upcoming contract.

Policy Shift

The steep rise in costs comes partially from inflation and partly from police policy to put more units in readily observable outfits.

Gone are the days of jeans, baseball caps and muscle shirts associated with the Gun Trace Task Force, whose eight members were convicted and imprisoned for racketeering, police have said.

Military-style attire of khakis or tactical pants, with POLICE emblazoned across the front vest, also were de-emphasized.

In 2020, then-Police Commissioner Michael Harrison ordered most plainclothes units into uniforms and assigned to marked cars. “We want to make sure we have the maximum visibility,” he said.

David Bomenka, in a white summer suit, is congratulated by then-Police Commissioner Kevin Davis in 2015 for apprehending a suspect in a high-speed car chase in southwest Baltimore. Bomenka was working as a plainclothes detective when he spotted the suspect's car crashed into a vacant rowhouse. (bmorebloc).

Detective David Bomenka, clad in a white summer suit, is congratulated by then-Commissioner Kevin Davis for apprehending a suspect in a high-speed car chase in 2015. (bmorebloc)

The $4.2 billion city spending plan approved by the City Council on Monday left the BPD’s $593 million budget intact.

That figure was $1.7 million lower than the previous year, but was $150 million more than the department’s FY15 budget of a decade ago.

State’s Attorney Ivan Bates didn’t fare as well this year.

The council chose not to fund the additional $1 million sought by the state’s attorney’s office for additional prosecutors.

Sartorial Upgrades

The SWAT and Crime Scene units are due for the biggest apparel facelift.

According to police documents, each member will receive five sworn dress and training uniforms in the first year of the contract, followed by two-to-five more uniforms in years two and three.

Tactical unit members will be issued two pants and two shirts, while bike officers will receive five shirts, two pants and a jacket to start with, then later become eligible for two new uniforms.

Also in line for upgrades: patrol officers with five new pants and five uniform shirts each.

Also in contrast to past practices, BPD is concentrating its uniform purchases in a single company, Galls LLC, a national online distributor of police, EMS, fire and security uniforms, boots, body armor and handcuffs.

Passed over were two venerable Baltimore clothiers – F & F and A. Jacobs & Sons and Howard Uniform Co., the former having supplied custom-made police and fire uniforms to the city since 1891.

Galls was deemed the lowest responsive and responsible bidder by the BPD command, who did not release the actual dollar amounts of the bids, but instead weighed the proposals “in accordance with pre-determined evaluation criteria.”

The Galls contract has two one-year renewals, meaning  the Lexington, Kentucky, company could be BPD’s exclusive tailor for the next five years.

• To reach the reporter: reuttermark@yahoo.com

Most Popular