Over objections from West Baltimore lawmakers, the city’s spending panel approved a $7.5 million plan Wednesday to relocate the city’s police academy to the University of Baltimore campus.
Some Democratic legislators ― including Sen. Antonio Hayes and city councilman Leon Pinkett ― as well as the Baltimore branch of the NAACP have pushed for the academy to move to Coppin State University, a historically black college.
Kobi Little, president of the local branch of NAACP, argued that for too long state and city leaders have treated historically black colleges and universities unequally when compared to traditionally white schools. Relocating the training to Coppin would help reverse that practice, Little argued.
“This body and this government have the opportunity to do something to lift Coppin State University,” Little said.
But Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told the panel that the current academy building at 3500 W. Northern Parkway in Northwest Baltimore is in such bad condition that the department needs to move it quickly ― and the University of Baltimore facility can be moved into most rapidly.
“We must relocate and we must relocate now,” Harrison testified.
As a compromise, the Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, voted to instruct the police department to employ faculty from Coppin State to teach at the academy. The board approved a motion from City Solicitor Andre Davis that “every effort be made” to include professors from Coppin in the training.
City Council President Brandon Scott abstained from the vote, but said he understood the concerns of those who support locating the academy at Coppin State.
“We have to understand that Northwest and West Baltimore are just as important as central Baltimore,” Scott said.
Under the terms of the deal, the city will lease the space at the University of Baltimore for roughly $6.8 million over five years. Police say the move will allow the department to expand its academic facilities and allow more recruits to study each year. In addition to rent, the city will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for parking and other fees associated with the move.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan last week threw his support behind the relocation, noting the University System of Maryland has pledged to provide up to $2.4 million to renovate the space.
The city fire department’s academy for emergency medical services recruits will remain at the Northern Parkway location, a former school in the Glen neighborhood.