I hail reporter Mark Puente and The Baltimore Sun for your investigative report on Baltimore police officers' excessive use of force and the astronomical financial and psychological costs of this to our city ("Undue Force: Suits against police cost millions," Sept. 28). Baltimore City has mishandled, lost, and poorly accounted for millions of taxpayer dollars in recent years. At the same time, city officials regularly claim the need for new taxes, bonds and other revenue sources to pay for badly needed upgrades to city schools and recreation centers; each spring the city claims that it has insufficient funds to operate all of the park and neighborhood swimming pools daily over the summer, and neighborhoods such as West Baltimore continue to struggle with blight and joblessness. I applaud The Baltimore Sun for bringing this information regarding the cost of city police brutality to light. City residents have a right to know where our taxpayer dollars are being spent and an attendant duty to address misspending.
Accordingly, I propose that the additional $4.2 million recently allocated for legal fees, judgments and lawsuits over police misconduct be reallocated with top priority to the following:
1. Sports, arts and music for youth in and out of school, particularly programs that emphasize teamwork, development of nonviolent conflict resolution skills and healing from trauma.
2. Summer jobs for teens, to teach practical life and career skills.
3. Memorial Day to Labor Day, full summer operation of all city park and neighborhood swimming pools, for healthy recreation and exercise for all throughout the city.
4. Job creation through support for small, local businesses and worker-owned cooperatives in neighborhoods with high unemployment and poverty.
5. Projects to address community blight, such as joint police and community service projects to beautify neighborhoods.
6. Initiatives to promote honest discussions of violence and provide counseling and faith-based support to help with healing from traumas of police and neighborhood violence.
7. Training of police in listening to city residents, treating them with respect, responding to problems without using force, and overcoming racial biases and discrimination.
In addition, beyond making speeches, the mayor and City Council must take action to ensure that those police officers who have committed violent misconduct are no longer on the police force. They should be fired and sent to jail for their brutalities against others.
These actions, taken together, will help reduce crime, start to build trust between the police and city residents and create a healthier and more positive community in which we all can live.
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