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Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison Worries About Gaps In Service With Defunding

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore's police commissioner is responding to efforts to defund the city's police department.

"This round of cuts that came with these hearings have demonstrated the will of the people," Commissioner Michael Harrison said Tuesday. "We are really kind of a basic functioning police department. There are impacts. Some of them could be negative."

Commissioner Harrison speaking via video conference Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The city council already approved slashing more than 22 million dollars from the Baltimore police budget and redirecting it to public services.

Baltimore City Council Budget
List of cuts to the police department adopted by the Baltimore City Council on Monday, June 15, 2020

"We are going to have to start responsibly reducing the city's dependence on the police department's budget so that we can reimagine public safety and investment," City Council President Brandon Scott said.

defund police painting
Defund Police painted on Gay Street near City Hall and police headquarters

However, the budget power wrests with the mayor—who is not in favor of the cuts but likely won't block them. Mayor Jack Young has until July 1st to decide what to do with the money cut from police.

"I am certainly in favor of building those programs and funding those programs. I have only advocated that we be thoughtful and we be careful about creating a gap in service," the commissioner said.

The largest chunk of the cuts would be for overtime. The marine and mounted units would also be cut—although police could redirect money to keep them.

Baltimore is struggling with violence and a murder rate higher to date than in 2019, which was the second highest on record when adjusted for population declines.

The city is also working to implement reforms with a federal consent decree.

defund police protest
Protesters demand defunding police in Baltimore

Consent decree monitor Ray Kelly said Tuesday the pandemic did not stop the epidemic of violence. He also spoke about the long road ahead for police to regain trust in the city.

This comes as Maryland's House Speaker and every Democratic Party delegate wrote a letter to Governor Larry Hogan demanding more police reforms.

The lawmakers want a statewide ban on officers using chokeholds, a ban on officers firing weapons at vehicles and a mandate that officers intervene if they see fellow officers using unnecessary force—in addition to other measures.

"This is not a partisan issue. I don't care who gets the credit. We need to start implementing policing changes now," said Speaker Adrienne Jones. "With the stroke of the pen, Governor Hogan has the power to save someone's life today."

Video from the webinar was provided by the Downtown Partnership. 

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