BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison spoke exclusively to WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren Wednesday about the movement to defund police, reforms in the department and his own future.

The city council approved $22 million in cuts to BPD last month including slashing the specialized marine and mounted units.

READ MORE: 83-Year-Old Struck In Fatal Crash

Harrison says 70 members of the department will be moved from specialized units to patrol and the department is looking for outside agencies to handle some of the duties of those units.

“We’ll add more people to patrol so we won’t have any gaps,” Harrison said. “They’re going to be shifted out of some of the specialized units like marine that was cut and mounted that was cut,” he said. “To the extent that we have a need for specialized services…we are partnering with another agency to perhaps be able to do that on our behalf.”

He said there are no layoffs expected among sworn officers.

“There has been some talk about some potential for civilians, and certainly, we’ve reduced the recent positions that went unfilled. There are no plans for any layoffs of any police officers.”

Harrison said while the department still has a shortage of officers, the BPD has not seen any “mass exodus” after demonstrations.

“We’re not seeing a change in recruitment numbers. We are not seeing a change in retention numbers,” Harrison said. “People still have the will and desire to be part of this profession and members of our department.”


Some demonstrators have demanded that police not handle calls for people in mental distress.

On Wednesday morning, Baltimore police shot an armed man who was having a behavioral crisis after relatives called them to the home.

Harrison said in certain cases, there are people “better suited” to handle those calls but believes it was appropriate for his officers to respond to the Wednesday incident.

READ MORE: Son Of Juanita Koilpillai Arrested For Her Murder

“Think about a social worker who is unarmed in a particular part of the house in the basement and the person is not willing to come out,” Harrison said. “In this particular case, the best-case scenario would have been for law enforcement to handle this. Otherwise, it could have been fatal or worse than what it was.”


The commissioner said he plans to stay on the job even with a new mayor coming into office.

“I said this before when Mayor Pugh had to step down: The person who brought me here, is not the reason why I’m here. I am in it because of my commitment to Baltimore and I am in it for the long haul.“

He said he is proud of how BPD handled recent protests.

“Our department has been a model for how to do this,” Harrison said.

Harrison also praised the work to reform the force.

“What the country is asking for, what you see people demanding by way of demonstrations, we are already doing that,“ he said.

Harrison commended the professionalism he saw in BPD officers.

“Because we were in a consent decree and we were compelled to retrain our department, it really helped us to show the world how this could be done peacefully,” he said.

Harrison said he is working to reduce the high murder rate but noted overall crime is down.

“We confuse the crime rate with the murder rate, and we use those words interchangeably. They’re very different,” Harrison said.

He said overall crime has been reduced 23 percent this year with violent crime down 15% percent and property crime down 26 percent.

MORE NEWS: Covid-19 In Maryland: Over 500 New Cases Reported Saturday

“We’re committed to making sure Baltimore is a safe city,” Harrison said.