ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Lashing out at the "defund the police" movement, Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday announced that Maryland will invest an additional $150 million in law enforcement as part of his "re-fund the police" initiative.
Hogan said efforts to reduce police funding, inadequate resources and criticism of police, combined with surging violent crime, have made it difficult for law enforcement agencies to recruit and keep qualified police officers.
Instead of diverting police funding to other avenues, the governor said, public officials need to steer more funding to law enforcement to maintain public safety.
"Thinking that you can improve law enforcement by defunding the police is like saying that you want to improve education by defunding the schools," Hogan said. "It's absurd and ridiculous."
Efforts to "defund the police" have grown in popularity nationwide amid unrest in the wake of high-profile police killings of civilians, such as George Floyd.
But the name is a misnomer since it means reducing police funding and spending more on programs to address root causes, not eliminating police budgets.
Hogan said now's the worst time to consider cutting law enforcement funding, saying violent crime afflicting major cities nationwide is driving away recruits and leading officers on the force to quit or retire early.
'We Need More Investment'
The key to improving public safety is not defunding police, the governor said, but rather beefing up police budgets.
"To reverse the tide of rising crime, we need to stop demonizing and sabotaging the dedicated men and women who risk their lives every single day to keep the rest of us safe. Enough is enough. We cannot defund the police. We need to re-fund the police. Instead of less funding, we need more investment in public safety," he said.
That's why, Hogan said, he plans to spend $150 million to shore up law enforcement funding. The governor's plan includes:
- $50 million for police pay raises and bonuses;
- $45 million to help local agencies with recruitment;
- $24 million to fund body cameras and de-escalation training;
- $14 million would cover victims' services and resources;
- $10 million would pay for neighborhood safety grants;
- $6 million for domestic violence and human trafficking victims;
- $1 million for the Maryland Chiefs and Sheriffs Association.
"Our $150 million 're-fund the police' initiative will provide a desperately needed shot in the arm to our state and local police agencies and their critical efforts to stop crime," Hogan said.
'Baltimore Is A Poster Child'
Singling out Baltimore during Friday's news conference, Hogan took digs at city officials and said the city's violent crime problem is "out of control."
"They're on pace to surpass 300 homicides again this year," he said. "The Baltimore Police Department is short-staffed by more than 300 officers. The city of Baltimore is a poster child for the basic failure to stop lawlessness. There's a prosecutor who refuses to prosecute crime. And there's a revolving door of repeat offenders who are being let right back onto the streets to shoot people again and again."
Left unsaid during Hogan's remarks was that the Baltimore Police Department's budget rose by $28 million this year.
Figures provided by the police department show he is not wrong about the violent crime rate.
The city has seen 265 homicides so far, compared to 262 for the same time last year. There have been 572 non-deadly shootings, down from last year's total (586).
Though the governor referred to State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, he did not mention either of them by name.
Neither could be reached for comment Friday.
City & State Leaders React
Mayor Brandon Scott pushed back against the governor's comments, saying confronting the city's violent crime problem requires collaboration among leaders, "not tactless finger pointing."
Over the last three months, Scott said, the police department has recovered over 550 crime guns and cleared over 220 violent crimes, including murders and shootings.
"Simply dispensing money will not solve anything unless that investment is met with real leadership, accountability and the willingness to make tough decisions," the mayor said.
Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett told WJZ tackling violent crime isn't a matter of adding police, it's also about investing in programs that keep people from falling into a cycle of crime.
"It's often not necessarily because we need more officers," Burnett said. "It's often economic issues that people are facing, addiction issues that people are facing, housing insecurity -- I mean, there's any number of issues that we could be investing hundreds of millions of dollars into."
Legislative leaders also weighed in, with House Speaker Adrienne Jones accusing the governor of politicizing the issue and calling his remarks "beneath him and the dignity of his office."
"The House stands ready to have an open an honest conversation about improving policing and reducing crime in the State once there are real ideas -- not rhetoric," Jones said.
Added Senate President Bill Ferguson: "A real effort to stop violence and make communities safe requires a coordinated plan that gets executed purposely every day. It also includes strategies that recognize poverty and opportunity shape the outcome of individuals. Divisive rhetoric does not make us safer."
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