City Council Responds to Protests with $22 Million in Cuts to Baltimore Police Department

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By Alexis Taylor, Special to the AFRO

Days after Baltimore residents painted “defund police” on Gay Street across from City Hall, an answer.

The Baltimore City Council responded loud and clear June 15, presenting a $3.8 billion dollar budget for the 2021 fiscal year with over $22 million in proposed cuts to the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). 

“Many of the young people who have led the protests and demonstrations here in Baltimore have been demanding that we finally think about investing in their future, rather than simply investing in their failure,” said City Council President Brandon Scott. “We must answer their call.”

Baltimore Police Department (AP Photo, File)

Scott said Baltimore officials have to get serious about having the police budget “looked at and reduced responsibly over time, while we invest in other agencies.”

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City Council meetings are broadcast live on CharmTV and posted to the CharmTV Citizen Hub on Youtube.

BPD Director of Public Affairs and Community Outreach Lindsey Eldridge sent the AFRO a statement in response to a request for an interview and said the department is holding off on live interviews until Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young approves the proposed cuts.

“The Baltimore Police Department is committed to ensuring that we work with the city council so they fully understand any and all ramification[s] of proposed cuts to the department,” read the statement sent to the AFRO. “We stand ready to deauthorize services so that we can stay under whatever budget allocation is ultimately approved.” 

The Budget and Appropriations Committee sliced money from both general funds and grants, but City Council members can only cut- not reappropriate funds. 

The committee cut over ten million dollars from the BPD’s Administrative Bureau. 

The BPD’s mounted units will lose $553,735. President Scott said the officers of the mounted unit don’t help de-escalate tense crowds and have already been relocated to patrol. Councilman John Bullock, on the contrary, said the mounted units have fostered positive community interactions in Southwest Baltimore where the stables are located and currently undergoing renovation. 

The $22 million cut from the BPD also included roughly $1.8 million from marine units. Scott suggested the BPD merge their marine units with the Baltimore City Fire Department’s marine units. 

Another  $7 million in cuts will come from the BPD’s $33 million fund for overtime pay. Multiple departments within the agency were affected, but Scott clarified that the cuts would not affect patrol officers.

The Crime Laboratory and Evidence Control will lose a total of $491,569 in overtime funds, which caused concern for council members like the 5th District’s Isaac Schleifer, who worried would further inhibit solving violent crime.

The recruitment department had over $2 million in overtime cut and the Compliance Bureau will have to axe $459,965 in the same category. Overtime was also cut from administration and data driven strategy costs. 

The council cut $444,371 from funds allocated to help the BPD prosecute criminals with the State’s Attorney’s Office. Scott said this was a new endeavor that hadn’t been properly analyzed yet.

The Council decided against cutting $207,695 from the Public Integrity Bureau, which handles internal investigations, special investigation and the Ethics division.

“As we’ve advanced through implementation of the consent decree, I simply cannot vote in support of something that limits our ability to continue to monitor reform,” said Councilman Eric Costello.