BALTIMORE — The words “Defund The Police” are still painted on the road in front of City Hall.
The paint is dry and the vote to partially cut funds to the department was in the hands of the Baltimore City Council Monday night.
With a vote of 13-2 the council decided on an array of budget amendments that cut out $22 million in funding.
People in cities all over the country including Baltimore are calling to defund police departments.
Council President Brandon Scott said they’ve known for a long time the city needed to start reducing the police department to fund other priorities.
“We’re going to have to fund Kirwin, we have other things coming down the pike,” Scott said. “We also know that we have to realign and re-imagine the way that we spend our dollars, but we have to that responsibly and with the things we already have going on in mind.”
The largest cut is almost $11 million in un-allocated funds taken out of the administration portion of the police budget.
Councilman Eric Costello, the chair of the budget sub-committee, voted against several of the proposed cuts, including the cut to the marine unit.
He said they needed more time to coordinate how to allocate responsibilities between the fire department and police department first.
He also opposed only cutting $7 million in police overtime, saying the $33 million remaining in budgeted overtime is entirely too much and a figure that they will go over anyway.
He says he's worried about the overall financial hole the city will be in from funding the Kirwan bill and the cost of COVID-19.
“Putting us at $80 million in the hole and I am concerned about the fiscal health of the city,” Costello said. “We are left looking for an additional amount of overtime with what we have proposed to cut is somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million so I vote no.”
Costello is also concerned about implementing the federally mandated consent decree with some of these cuts.
“There is no way I can support a cut to either this or the public integrity bureau. These are the functions that are working to ensure that our consent decree is implemented.”
The council can only take money out they can’t add funds to any budgets.
Councilman Zeke Cohen asked the Mayor to redistribute the money to fund trauma responsive programs like Safe Streets and Youth works.
“I implore you to listen to the people that put us all in office,” Cohen said. “Redistribute the money that has been cut not as a slight to Commissioner Harrison or his department, but as an opportunity to reimagine public safety in our city and reinvest it to the people and do it now.”
The budget and the amendments now go to Mayor Jack Young’s desk and on Friday he said he plans to sign it.
A finalized budget is due by June 26.