BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the Baltimore City Council spends the week discussing and eventually voting on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, calls are growing for them to reallocate funding that would otherwise go to the police department.
Dozens of people gathered outside City Hall Monday calling for the Baltimore Police Department to be defunded.
Among them was Tracy Richardson, who said the system has to change. He wants to see more of that money distributed to local community organizations and services.
“If you could build the communities up and give people hope, and then they have character, they wouldn’t feel like they’re lost and not a part of society,” he said.
Schoolteacher Rachel Wilkinson said she wants to see more money provided for education.
“We have other avenues that we could be supplying funds for that really could improve the lives of our constituency,” she said.
Council members are set to decide how to balance the $3.9 billion budget. Councilman Eric Costello, the chair of the city’s budget and appropriations committee, said members are divided on whether or not to make cuts to the police department, which is slated to receive $545 million.
“We have a crime plan, we have a staffing plan, we have a community engagement plan, those things have been endorsed by Judge Bernard who oversees the consent decree, but those things also cost money to implement,” Costello said.
The committee will hear from Police Commissioner Michael Harrison about the department’s funding on Friday. The city charter requires the budget to be signed by no later than June 26.
At the national level, during a roundtable discussion with members of the law enforcement community, President Donald Trump responded to the calls to defund police departments.
“There won’t be a defunding, there won’t be a dismantling of our police,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House won’t consider defunding police agencies, calling it a “local matter.”
During a virtual discussion on ending systematic racism in law enforcement, Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, said police work is important but needs complete accountability.
“You have to fix the training system and you have to do continuous training, but if you don’t affect the culture, all the training in the world is for not,” he said.