Baltimore budget committee makes cuts to police units amid calls for defunding police

The Baltimore City Budget and Appropriations Committee is approving measures to defund portions of the Baltimore Police Department.


A Baltimore City budget committee approved measures Monday to cut funding to some of the police department's specialized units.

The full City Council, which is meeting Monday night, has the final say over the city's $3 billion spending plan.

Line by line, the Baltimore City Budget and Appropriations Committee cut funding to the Baltimore Police Department's budget.

"These cuts are, and I'm going to say it again, responsible cuts to the police department's budget," Council President Brandon Scott said. "This is about transparency and accountability."

The council budget panel gave a green light to defunding the BPD's marine unit and the mounted unit.

Most of the decisions were made and most of the amendments passed with little debate or disagreement, though some concerns were raised.

"(The mounted unit) has been very instrumental in terms of some of the recent uplift in southwest Baltimore as it relates to the B&O Railroad and the mounted unit being there as a part of community interaction," said Baltimore City Councilman John Bullock, D-District 9.

The committee also approved slashing nearly $7 million in police overtime from six different programs.

The closest vote was on one of the smallest dollar amounts — $207,695 — for the Police Public Integrity Bureau, which includes Internal Affairs and the ethics commission. The most debate was over nearly $500,000 for crime lab and evidence control overtime.

Despite some opposition for fiscal and reform reasons, when it came to programs like the Police Public Integrity Bureau, some council members felt cuts were not appropriate.

"This service, to me, represents exactly what we're calling for the police department to do, and to make any adjustment to this particular service, no matter how small, to me, is a step in the wrong direction," said Baltimore City Councilman Leon Pinkett III, D-District 7.

The committee sent the budget on to full City Council for a vote. Scott noted, "These cuts are not to the patrol bureau … out there each and every day on the crime fight."

There will likely be some negotiating with the mayor's office soon because the City Council can only make cuts to the budget and does not have the power to reallocate the money.

City Council members met virtually Friday with Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to discuss his department's $550 million budget for next fiscal year.

Harrison said this is not the time to defund police as murders in the city spike and the department continues its efforts to rebuild while under a federal consent decree, which he claimed has forced major reforms.

"Our department embraces reform and we will continue this progress as the residents of our city deserve a world-class police department that inspires trust," Harrison said Friday.

The commissioner, however, proposed some cuts to help the city pay for Kirwan education reforms and costs brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott said he will propose "tens of millions of dollars" of cuts to BPD over a multiyear plan.