Baltimore, MD – In a city with a record-breaking murder rate, and respect for police at an all-time low, many people are wondering why more Baltimore PD officers don’t quit. For many of them, the reason is simple - the department won’t let them quit.
Baltimore PD is one of the few departments which actively sues officers who resign, forcing officers to stay in a dangerous job that they may no longer want to do.
In order to resign without being sued, officers need to work for years after completing field training.
Current Baltimore officers told Blue Lives Matter that the requirement used to be that officers stay for two years or be sued for $12,000. But after a large number of officers fled the department, the department changed the requirement to five years or be sued for $27,000 - well over half of the officers' starting annual salary of $48,971.00.
When we attempted to verify this information with various officials within the department, they refused to release that information without a written request to their Public Affairs office. We made the request one week ago and they have failed to respond. When asked, the department told us that they had responded (they didn’t) and told us that we needed to contact their legal office. Their legal office did not respond before publication time.
We tracked down an officer who resigned, and he confirmed the information.
“After hatred for police really scaled up, I got really concerned that my life could be ruined for doing my job,” a now-former Baltimore officer told Blue Lives Matter. The officer asked to remain anonymous because he says that the department has been trying to sue him for resigning. “I had to make a choice, either quit and be sued for more money than I have ever had in my life, or stay and risk having my life ruined for doing my job.”
The officer resigned, but says that he’s been evading process servers since. He’s not alone. Other officers from Baltimore PD lost their lawsuits.
Court records show that Officer Andrew Penczek resigned in 2013, and moved back to his home state of New York. The city immediately sued him for $10,210.23. The now-former officer had to fight the lawsuit before being ordered to pay over $5,000 to the city.
We were unable to reach Penczek for comment.
The lawsuits are possible because the department makes new officers sign contracts promising to compensate the department for training costs if they quit within a specified number of years after they complete field training.
One former officer who spoke to Blue Lives Matter acknowledged that he signed the contract, but said that he didn’t have much of a choice.
“I lived out of state, and I accepted the job offer to become a Baltimore police officer. I moved my family down, and on my first day they gave me this contract which said I’d have to pay [the department] if I quit,” he said. “They never told me ahead of time that I’d have to sign this contract. There was no mention of this contract. I moved my family for this job and would have no way to support them if I didn’t sign.”
The officer’s claim about the contract being a secret seems to be backed up by the department’s own recruiters. When Blue Lives Matter attempted to ask recruiters about the 5 year requirement, they refused to comment and again referred us to submit a written request to their legal department.
“Nobody should be forced to keep working in law enforcement if they don’t want to be there. They know that new officers can’t afford the lawsuit. They’re trapped. They're holding people hostage financially,” the former officer concluded.
How do you think this affects the attitude of cops who are forced to stay? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.