Baltimore, MD (PT) – In recent days the Baltimore Police Department has come under sustained criticism for what its critics view as excessive expenditure on overtime, according to a groundbreaking report by Baltimore based TRNN Journalist Stephen Janis, broadcast on Thursday. For some considerable time now the BPD has been justifying the allocation of tens of millions of dollars in public expenditure on overtime payments, due to what it claims is a shortage of Patrol Officers. The principal bone of contention, according to this report, is that with one in every four city administered tax dollars ending up with the Police, essential services like affordable housing and schools are now dramatically underfunded.
As a result of what critics of the BPD say has been an ongoing problem for some considerable time now, the city’s Bureau of the Budget and Management Research published a series of recommendations for the 2018 financial year back in May. The recommendations were intended to prioritize investment in education and youth development over policing, with the specific intention of providing “more money for programs that give residents – especially our youngest ones – opportunities to succeed in life” according to the BBMR website. And, with a “major new commitment to City Schools”, whilst maintaining “core City services”, such as the Fire Department, which has its own EMT response cost averaging $825 per call, along with Baltimore City’s continued commitment to “Property Tax reduction for homeowners”, the Police Department’s continued justification for large scale expenditure on overtime has now come under detailed scrutiny.
So, when a recent $21 million supplemental spending bill, centered on police overtime, resulted in the dissipation of all of the additional tax revenues that had been raised by Baltimore City over the course of the previous financial year, a number of concerned Councilmen, including the 7th District’s Leon Pinkett and Councilman Ryan Dorsey, began to question the legitimacy of the police’s continued ability to drain Baltimore City’s finances. Last week, just a day before TRNN put out its own report into the controversy involving police finances, Councilman Dorsey tweeted direct criticism of BPD to his followers:
Officers sitting in cars doing nothing, or trying to convince people not to make reports (or getting people to downgrade crimes)… police not doing their job is not unusual at all. It’s part of the whole culture of regarding patrol as an undesirable assignment. https://t.co/ZiryaY0i4O
Earlier, Vanessa Herring, a reporter at WBAL Baltimore News TV, had tweeted that two firefighters called 911, but within minutes, they spotted an unidentified officer – she responds, “This isn’t my district.” According to her own earlier report the officer “brushed off two firefighters” report of an armed man…..The firefighters recorded a man on dash cam video at Lexington and St. Paul streets….They believed he hid a gun in bushes near the Mitchell Courthouse.’ Whilst the city’s Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle’s response to the report was to claim that the incident was “an anomaly”, Councilman Dorsey’s statement that “the anomaly is that it was caught on camera” seems to be the general view among many of the City’s residents. Particularly in the 7th District, where Councilman Leon Pinkett has been campaigning vociferously to get more officers on the street in the wake of the shooting of a 7-year-old Baltimore girl.
Documents obtained by Councilman Dorsey, and subsequently passed on to TRNN, suggest that in fact there is no shortage of Police officers at all, and that the BPD claim for excessive overtime payments is completely unjustified. If true, this could be another hole below the water line for a police department that has had a very troublesome year already. According to another report, this time broadcast by Fox Baltimore News on virtual channel 45, “unconstitutional policing” was noted during a civil rights investigation of the BPD by a Department of Justice federal monitoring team who documented the department’s failings in its first semiannual report. Whilst earlier in the year, TRNN reported that the Baltimore Police Commissioner, Darryl De Sousa, had been indicted on three charges of failing to file tax returns; each of which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $25,000 fine. A development that was to result in his subsequent suspension.