Gov. Larry Hogan, decrying what he claimed is “an all-out assault on the entire law enforcement community” and singling out political leaders in Baltimore for the city’s violent crime, pitched a $150 million boost in state spending on police and public safety at a Friday news conference in Annapolis.
Hogan billed the proposed spending plan as his “Re-Fund the Police Initiative,” riffing off calls from some activists and demonstrators to “defund the police” during mass protests about police brutality last summer.
The Republican governor’s proposal would increase state funding for local law enforcement by $45 million, spend $50 million on raises and bonuses for state police agencies, set aside $24 million to pay for body cameras and training for officers and use state funds to double Crime Stoppers rewards for tips that lead to arrests. Another $10 million would funded extra neighborhood grants for safety features such as increased lighting and additional surveillance cameras.
Nearly all of the spending that the governor is proposing would need to be approved as part of the state’s budget by the Maryland General Assembly, where Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
Maryland lawmakers have voted to steadily increase state funding for law enforcement for years and some of the proposed funding hikes, including money for body cameras and training, will help agencies comply with a sweeping package of policing reform bills passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.
Hogan called himself one of the first leaders in the country to reject the idea of cutting police budgets amid protests last summer and derided the idea as “dangerous far-left lunacy.” The governor spent much of the late morning news conference lambasting Baltimore, which he called “a poster child for the basic failure to stop lawlessness,” and appeared to blame city leaders for high violent crime rates in the city.
The governor again blasted Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, a frequent target of the second-term Republican’s jabs, although he did not mention her by name. Hogan claimed Baltimore’s top prosecutor “refuses to prosecute criminals” and has created “a revolving door of repeat offenders who are being let right back out onto the streets to shoot people again and again.”
Leaders of other Maryland jurisdictions — including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — have voted to trim police funding as part of wider budget cuts amid pandemic funding shortfalls. Hogan did not criticize or mention either of those jurisdictions during his Friday news conference, although a spokesman for Hogan later cited both when asked about Hogan’s “re-fund the police” framing.
Several legislative leaders pushed back at Hogan’s sharp remarks Friday but did not rule out again increasing funding for law enforcement as part of budget negotiations next year. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones said that Hogan’s assertions were “beneath him and the dignity of his office.”
Hogan, she said, was attempting to politicize legislative efforts to make law enforcement more transparent and inclusive.
“The House stands ready to have an open and honest conversation about improving policing and reducing crime in the state once there are real ideas — not rhetoric,” the Baltimore County Democrat said in a statement.
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said in a statement that “divisive rhetoric does not make us safer” and that “improving public safety isn’t about just writing a bigger check” but said lawmakers “support investments that enhance trust and safety.”
Democratic Sen. William Smith Jr. of Montgomery County, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, criticized Hogan for trying to frame the police accountability legislation Smith helped shape as an attack on law enforcement or conflating it with activist calls to defund police. But Smith also said in a tweet that he applauded Hogan’s proposed investments “in attracting and retaining the best and brightest” and in “public safety.”
A spokesperson for Mosby’s office declined Friday to respond to Hogan’s latest remarks.
Mosby, a Democrat, has drawn support and criticism for her decision to stop prosecuting lower-level drug offenses. The State’s Attorney’s Office under Mosby also has dropped more cases and won fewer convictions than her predecessor, though in the past Mosby has said outside factors — including wide-ranging police corruption scandals such as the Gun Trace Task Force case that shook the Baltimore Police Department — have forced her to throw out charges.
Despite activist calls to slash the police budget, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and the City Council boosted police spending by $28 million in the city’s current budget passed in June. The increase more than offset a funding cut — backed by Scott, then council president and a leading mayoral candidate — passed the previous year. That past budget envisioned spending $22 million less on city police, although later spending erased a significant chunk of the planned budget cuts such as eliminating the police horseback unit.
In a statement, the Democratic mayor said Hogan was understating efforts to reduce crime in Baltimore. Baltimore has reported 265 homicides so far this year, and has had more than 300 homicides every year since 2015.
“Tackling violence in Baltimore requires vast coordination among state and federal partners, not tactless finger pointing,” Scott said. “I’m reminded of this fact every time a homicide victim is found wearing an ankle monitor, or law enforcement apprehends a murder suspect only to arrest them again months later for an illegal handgun.”