In Baltimore City, the principal agencies concerned with public safety are the Office of Emergency Management, the Fire Department, and the Police Department.


Following World War II, the Office of Emergency Mangement developed out of the City's Civil Defense Program as part of the Department of Public Works. In 2002, the Office was restructured under the Fire Department, and was placed under the Chief of Staff in 2008. It transferred to Emergency Management and Public Safety in September 2012, and was made a separate unit in 2015.

The Office of Emergency Mangement develops and implements emergency readiness plans to address potential disasters, and works to alert residents, businesses, and government agencies of how to prepare for predicted emergencies, react to existing emergencies, and recover from past emergencies. The Office coordinates City emergency responders, and acts as liaison to federal, State, private, and nonprofit agencies to ensure residents have basic necessities (Code Public Safety Article, secs. 14-109 through 14-113).

Appointed by the Governor on recommendation of the Mayor, the Director oversees the Office (Code Public Safety Article, sec. 14-109).


[photo, Hazmat 1 truck, Baltimore City Fire Department, Charles St., Baltimore, Maryland] As a volunteer service, the first fire company was founded in Baltimore City in 1763. To ensure quick and efficient response to fires in the City, the first professional service was created in 1859. Since then, the Department has expanded to include emergency medical response units, and specialized hazard units to confront emergency needs.

Appointed by the Mayor with City Council consent, the Fire Chief oversees the Department (City Charter, Article VII, sec. 48).

Hazmat 1 truck, Baltimore City Fire Department, Charles St., Baltimore, Maryland, March 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

The Department consists of three Divisions: Administration, Community Risk Reduction, and Operations. It is aided by the Board of Fire Commissioners.

Formed in 2008, the Administration Division consolidated all maintenance, procurement and supply functions for the Fire Department. Moreover, the Division ensures communications between City and volunteer fire and rescue companies, oversees the Fire Academy, and conducts community outreach and training programs.


Formerly named the Field Operations Division, the Operations Division maintains and coordinates fire and emergency medical services throughout the City to respond to fire emergencies. The Division includes thirty-seven fire stations, as well as hazmat units, fireboats, and a dive rescue unit.

The Division oversees Emergency Medical Services.


[photo, Bishop L. Robinson, Sr., Police Administration Building, 601 East Fayette St., Baltimore, Maryland] Origins of the Police Department trace to the colonial period when Baltimore County constables patrolled the area that later became Baltimore City. The first constables assigned specifically to Baltimore City were authorized by the General Assembly in 1784 (Chapter 69, Acts of 1784). Following the City's separation from Baltimore County in 1851, the State Legislature authorized creation of a City police force in March 1853 (Chapter 46, Acts of 1853).

Bishop L. Robinson, Sr., Police Administration Building, 601 East Fayette St., Baltimore, Maryland, July 2007. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

During the late 1800s, the Police Department was placed under the Board of Police Commissioners, which was charged with expanding the Department, as well as updating and increasing its capabilities. In 1885, the Police Department was restructured, creating new divisions and incorporating new technologies. Call boxes were installed throughout the City, the Harbor Patrol began, and the City's first patrol wagon was purchased. These changes allowed units to stay in better contact, reduce response times, and better police City waterways.

By 1961, the City Park Police joined the Police Department, further increasing the Department's scope and size (Chapter 290, Acts of 1961).

Supervision of the Department transferred from the Board of Police Commissioners to a single Police Commissioner in July 1978. The Police Commissioner was appointed by the Mayor with City Council consent for a six-year term. Since October 1, 2016, however, the Police Commissioner, while still appointed by the Mayor with City Council consent, serves at the pleasure of the Mayor (Chapter 193, Acts of 2016).

Today, the Police Department oversees two bureaus: Operations, and Strategic Investigation and Support Services. The Department is aided by the Community Oversight Task Force and the Civilian Review Board.

Overseeing the daily administrative duties of the Police Department, the Chief of Staff is responsible for meeting the fiscal and procurement needs of the Department.

The Criminal Investigations Division began as the Crime Reduction Bureau, later was renamed the Operations Bureau, and in September 2017, reformed as the Criminal Investigations Bureau. In February 2018, it was reorganized as a division.

The Division is the primary enforcement branch of the Police Department, and consists of investigation and intelligence officers, the crime lab, and special tactical units. Through the Division, the Police Department maintains a presence in communities, assists in crime prevention, responds to emergency calls for police assistance, and investigates crimes.


The Operations Bureau began as the Crime Reduction Bureau, later was renamed the Operations Bureau, and in September 2017 had its functions move into separate divisions. It reformed as the Operations Bureau in February 2018.

Under the Operations Bureau are three divisions: Neighborhood Patrol, Special Operations, and Youth and Community.

The Neighborhood Patrol Division started as part of the Crime Reduction Bureau, which later became the Operations Bureau. It restructured as the Patrol Bureau, which organized in September 2017. Under Operations, it reformed as the Neighborhood Patrol Division in February 2018.


The Strategic Investigation and Support Services Bureau began as the Strategic Services Bureau. It reorganized under its present name in February 2018.

The Bureau oversees four main divisions: Homeland Security and Training, Inspectional Services and Integrity, Police Training Academy, and sections for Best Practices, Information Technology, Recruitment and Professional Development, and Science and Management Services.

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