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Audit: Baltimore Police not recovering full costs of staffing special events because rates are out of date

When the Baltimore Police Department sent 15 of its members to staff a special event in April 2019, they billed the organizers for roughly $8,200.

But the actual cost for having officers man the event was closer to $12,000.

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The department — long under pressure to rein in spending — absorbed the difference, a city audit released Wednesday found.

For years, the police department has not been recovering the actual cost incurred by providing coverage at special events. It has instead been charging organizers based on outdated flat rates that don’t account for the true price of overtime.

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There were nearly 300 special events staffed by Baltimore police in 2019 and 2018, the two-year period covered by the audit. It’s unclear exactly how much in costs the department absorbed in that time.

The department’s chief financial officer, Shallah Graham, said she is working with the mayor’s office to implement rate changes, and could be coming before the Board of Estimates as soon as next month to present updated figures.

“We’ve already begun corrective action,” she said.

In its response to the audit, the department wrote that it believes the fees have not been updated since 2011.

“We have reached a similar conclusion with respect to this issue that the rates are woefully out of date, do not reflect actual costs, and the difference represents a financial burden that unfortunately has been absorbed by the Department,” the agency wrote.

The Baltimore City Council recently voted to eliminate $22 million in spending for the police budget, amid national protests against police brutality and calls to reimagine the way cities pay for public safety. Roughly $7 million of that comes from cuts to the overtime budget, which the department has long struggled to rein in.

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