Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott traded barbs Thursday over the mayor’s goal of reducing the Baltimore Police Department’s spending over the next five years.
In an appearance Thursday morning on WBAL Radio, the Republican governor criticized the Democratic mayor’s plan to move forward with a task force to develop a budget reduction plan for the police department amid a persistently high murder rate in the city.
Hogan said he was “shocked and outraged” about Scott’s announcement, coming alongside the rollout of the city’s preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That spending plan would increase the Baltimore Police Department’s budget by $28 million, or 5%.
“We’ve had thousands of people murdered in the City of Baltimore, and it’s unconscionable, but nobody wants to do anything about it,” Hogan said, criticizing Scott’s plan as well as elements of the police reform legislation passed by state lawmakers Wednesday, which he said “focused on a bunch of things that are going to make it harder for police to do their jobs and make it easier for violent criminals to continue committing crimes.”
During a separate news conference at the War Memorial Plaza, Scott shot back that Hogan “should actually have the facts and stop trying to answer things in what I call cookie-cutter comments.”
“I know the governor loves these Republican talking points,” the mayor said. “But this is about re-imagining what public safety is in Baltimore.”
Scott said his and Hogan’s staffs have met about addressing the violence, but the governor has not yet accepted his request for a meeting between the two elected officials. The mayor’s goals include shifting some of the burdens currently placed on police, such as overdose and mental health emergency calls, to the city’s “world-class health institutions” and improving the department’s efficiency and technology to better tackle violent crime.
“This city has operated the way that it has every single year of my life,” said Scott, who turned 37 on Thursday. “And every single year of my life, we’ve been one of the most violent cities in the country. This is not about defunding [the police], this is about re-imagining public safety.”
He said Hogan has “never had that gun in his face” and does not truly understand the violence and the needs of the police department and the city.
“What we’re talking about is putting a group of people together to see how we can responsibly reimagine our city budget so that the burden is not solely on the police,” he added. “If the governor wants to actually have a real conversation about that, he knows how to get ahold of me.”
Hogan also said in the radio interview that he is taking a “careful look” at the four-piece package of police reform legislation the General Assembly has sent to his desk. The legislation would change disciplinary procedures for officers accused of misconduct, grant public access to police disciplinary records, and establish an independent unit to investigate deaths of civilians at the hands of law enforcement, among other reforms.
While he commended “a number of positive steps” that the legislature proposed, Hogan said that the lawmakers “basically put some poison pills in each of the bills, combined them together with some of the worst possible stuff, along some positive reforms.”
All of the bills passed by wide enough margins in both chambers to override any vetoes, if lawmakers don’t change their positions.
Baltimore Sun reporters Bryn Stole and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.