(CNN)A federal judge addressed the Baltimore Police Department's low staffing in court in response to a consent decree issued in 2017 mandating improved training and new recruitment policies.
Baltimore Police Department faces criticism for low staffing
US District Court Judge James Bredar on Wednesday admonished police in his opening remarks and said that while leadership is not his concern, he is requesting monthly reports on staffing and training.
"I continue to be alarmed at the department's staffing level, and I see a successful recruiting initiative as absolutely critical to the capacity of the Police Department to accomplish the changes required by the decree," Bredar said.
According to CNN affiliate WBAL, the department had fewer officers in 2019 than the year before.
When contacted by CNN, Bredar said he would not comment.
The US Justice Department helped craft the consent decree after policing practices came under fire in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Gray died while being transported in a Baltimore police van, which led to widespread protests and a yearlong audit of the city's policing practices.
The Baltimore Sun reported a consultant has recommended the hiring of 300 more sworn officers.
Det. Jeremy Silbert, a public information officer for the department, told CNN in an emailed statement that Baltimore's police recruiting issues are not unique to the city and pointed to the department's success in officer retention rate, posting a 10-year high in 2019.
"The department has taken great strides to improve recruitment and retention for the Baltimore Police Department," the statement said. "This included making significant investments in new academy facilities, streamlining our curriculum to host more classes and graduate more officers, as well as launching a digital marketing campaign focused on recruiting new officers."
Police did not immediately reply when asked whether they had a response to the judge's concerns.