Rawlings-Blake asks state for $30 million to help Baltimore pay for DOJ-mandated police reforms

Rawlings-Blake wants state funds to pay for DOJ-mandated police reforms in Baltimore

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is asking the state for more than $30 million to pay for staffing increases, new technology and other investments in the Baltimore Police Department that the city expects will be mandated under a pending consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The requests, put to Gov. Larry Hogan in a letter made public Tuesday, break with a previous statement by Rawlings-Blake that the city would not look to the state or federal government to pick up the tab.

"Understanding the financial constraints of [the] State, I believe that it is important that you understand what the scope is of some of the City's needs," Rawlings-Blake wrote. She asks Hogan to prioritize the police improvements — along with several education, health and community development projects — as he begins considering his budget proposal for next year.

One of the mayor's requests: $20 million over five years to implement an "Early Warning System" that would "identify problematic behavior from BPD officers at an early stage and implement appropriate remedies (intervention, training, termination, etc.)."

Other requests include $9 million next year to renovate police stations across the city and another $2.4 million to put mobile data terminals in all of the department's patrol vehicles. She also seeks $1.1 million over five years to hire four coordinators to train and advise police officers "in appropriate sexual assault investigation and interview techniques."

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said in a statement Tuesday that the governor's office had just received the letter "and will review it, as all budget requests are reviewed."

Chasse said Hogan and his administration "will continue to work closely with city leadership, including the incoming administration, to advance our many shared goals and priorities."

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division spent more than a year investigating the Police Department and in August issued a scathing report that found police have for years violated the rights of local residents, particularly in predominantly black neighborhoods. The report found violations in virtually all aspects of daily police work, including officers disproportionately stopping and searching black motorists and pedestrians and inappropriately dismissing reported sexual assaults.

The investigation was launched after the death in April 2015 of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody sparked widespread protests, and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson.

The city entered into an "Agreement in Principle" with the Justice Department promising reforms, and is currently locked in negotiations over the consent decree, which will mandate specific reforms.

The projects for which Rawlings-Blake requested funding likely represent only a portion of the costs the city will incur. Consent decrees usually usher in sweeping reforms, and Baltimore officials have acknowledged that the Police Department is woefully behind, particularly when it comes to technology.

"Those issues don't exist in a vacuum," Rawlings-Blake said in an August interview. "They exist because of limited resources."

Still, in that same interview, Rawlings-Blake dismissed the idea the city would seek help with funding. "I don't anticipate looking to the state or the federal government," she said.

"There may be some grant opportunities federally or with the state that we could pursue that may match some of the mandated improvements we have to make," Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in the same interview, "but generally when the Department of Justice comes in under a consent decree, they aren't coming in with a checkbook."

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said Tuesday that their comments were meant to convey that "they were willing to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done."

Now, Rawlings-Blake "is anticipating that reform is going to take a lot of different forms, and we have a lot of obligations to meet," he said. "Hopefully the governor is interested in, as he has said several times, helping the citizens of Baltimore."

Chasse, Hogan's spokeswoman, said Hogan is "deeply committed to building a Baltimore City that is safer, more vibrant, and a better place to live, work, and raise a family." He "looks forward to working with local city leadership and law enforcement on the possible ways the state can continue to support their efforts," she said.

Hogan "has great confidence in Commissioner Davis, and is confident that his leadership has already begun to make a difference" in Baltimore, Chasse said.

Without a finalized consent decree, it is impossible to know how much the process will cost in total. But McCarthy said city officials believe it won't exceed the $5 million to $10 million per year the mayor estimated in August.

For the Early Warning System, Rawlings-Blake has requested $8 million in fiscal 2018, then $3 million a year through fiscal 2022, based on the cost for implementing a similar system in New Orleans.

The mayor asked for $9 million for police stations in fiscal 2018, noting that the city believes it will be able to attract matching contributions from the private sector. She did not specify the private partners. Earlier this year, local business leaders — including from Under Armour, the Baltimore Ravens and Wells Fargo — committed $2.4 million to renovate the Western District station, where Gray was found unconscious.

For the hiring of sexual assault response coordinators, the mayor asked for $300,000 in fiscal 2018, then $200,000 per year through fiscal 2021.

The mayor asked for $1.9 million for the mobile data terminals in patrol cars and another $500,000 for additional hardware that would allow Baltimore officers to "share information efficiently" with other state agencies.

The mayor also asked for $815,000 to fund a "Crisis Intervention Team" of mental health professionals who would train police officers to handle people with mental illness, addiction, or both.

McCarthy said the city does not anticipate Hogan will provide all the funding requested, but anything would help.

krector@baltsun.com

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