In May our organizers began a process of engaging, identifying and learning from local leaders in and around McCulloh Homes.
At the corner of Dolphin Street and Druid Hill, the high-rises of McCulloh View rises. It has also been identified as one of the most dangerous corners in the Baltimore City. This is where we started. We met with a dozen potential Community Promoters, whose job it would become to knock on doors and start conversations in the area. The first weeks were exciting and busy, as we knocked on doors and spoke to people who hadn't been given a voice at all in the efforts to address crime and violence in their neighborhoods.
We spoke to survivors of gun and other violence, and their families. Some preferred to stay home and keep themselves safe by isolating from what often happened right outside of their doors. Others made a habit of engaging: whether with one another. One court was forming their own unofficial security force reminiscent of what our parents had. People would watch out for each other, shared information, names and numbers. Watch out for each others' children. Another woman single-handedly confronted those who lingered on her stoop. A neighbor shared how their need for medical care, to treat injuries sustained during past violence, was read as drug-seeking by medical care providers. He noted that he felt like no one else came around to really listen and cared about them. That is when we knew we were in EXACTLY the right place!
Around the corner, and down the block, others felt that there had been arrests that made it feel safer where they were. Over and over we heard, "no one is talking to us." So we did. We talked. We made first contacts. We made follow-up calls. We held a first event in the auditorium at McCulloh View, and got an earful!
There were many leaders in that room: former union members, those with experience in security (on both sides of that uniform), those with complaints about the responsiveness of those who managed City View, and those ready to take on the systems that drive crime.
Now, we need to give them somewhere to take all of that energy! We have work to do, and a lot of new friends to help us do it! Are you one of them? Join us.
Before the public comments rolled in, Comptroller Bill Henry expressed amazement that the city's proposed FY2022 budget does not “cut even .1%" from the police” budget but instead increases it by 5%. Even Mayor Scott’s opening remarks expressed the desire to cut the police funding in the future, even as he tried to explain the proposed increase of nearly $28 million. Add your name, neighborhood & story to the simple message here.
Then resident after resident, dozens of them, came forward to testify for cuts to the police -- with specific demands to remove from $100 million up to 25% (which would be over $138 million. Over and over they demanded a litany of investments that would do more to protect public health and safety.
Proposed increases in FY2022 is more than the City Council cut last year as protesters rallied and painted DEFUND THE POLICE outside City Hall. Baltimore already spends more per resident on police than the 72 largest cities in the US.
“Baltimore is one of the Blackest cities in America and spends the most per capital on police,” testified Shaquille Carbon, Communities’s United’s organizing director. Communities United presented members of the Board of Estimates an independent analysis of the preliminary FY2022 budget that revealed the same misplaced priorities of previous administrations.
“This year’s increase continues the structural inequity of an entrenched, ever increasing police budget that consumes more and more of the city’s discretionary spending year after year,” Carbon continued.
Last month, Communities United sent a letter to Mayor Scott and the other members of the Board of Estimates making the case for a 25% cut from the police and reinvestment of these funds in solutions that are proven to support real community health and safety.
Why 25%? Defunding Baltimore’s police by 25% would bring the department’s spending in line with the cost of some other expensive city police forces. Baltimore would still be one of the nation’s most expensive departments. It is also significant enough to help Baltimore meet its required increase in school funding ($161.5 million by 2030) to receive an transformational $585 million increase in state school funding, as promised under the Blueprint for Maryland's Future. The FY2022 budget actually cuts $12 million in general fund dollars and $41 million overall from the schools.
Mayor Scott led the effort to cut $22 million from the police budget last June. He recently announced that he would create a task force to develop a five year plan to reduce the police budget. And he stood up to attacks from Governor Hogan over that proposal.
#Defund2Refund is a campaign led by Communities United to right-size Baltimore’s police budget to free up public dollars to reinvest in health, schools, jobs and more in neighborhoods now facing crime, poverty, overdoses, and over-policing. If you tried to get on or get heard at Baltimore's BOE Taxpayers' Night last night & couldn't, we want to hear from you. Also, they will all accept public testimony through April 30, 2021, via email (Taxpayernight@baltimorecity.gov) or voicemail, 410-396-8873.
(Prepared by the Center for Popular Democracy and Communities United)
Last summer, thousands of Baltimore residents took to the streets, joining the national call to divest from the police and reinvest in Black and Brown communities that have faced longstanding systemic divestment. Our demands included long sought, meaningful solutions for Black and Brown communities that realize real community safety, such as housing, mental health supports, and funding for education--not police and jails.
In Baltimore, like in localities across the country, the city has continued to allocate resources to the Police Department and Sheriff’s Department while underinvesting in public schools, affordable housing, jobs programs, and health resources. The city continues to over-invest in police despite the lack of evidence that policing leads to public safety. Study after study shows that a living wage, access to holistic health services and treatment, educational opportunity, and stable housing are far more successful in reducing crime than police or prisons.
The Baltimore Police Department’s budget has continuously grown over the past several decades and now receives an outsized share of the general fund (the most flexible, discretionary fund in the city budget):
Outsized Spending on the Police and Sheriff’s Departments Compared to Spending on Substance Use and Mental Health
We call on the city to divest at least 25 percent from the city’s current police department budget and reinvest these funds in solutions that are proven to support real community health and safety.
Why 25 percent?
Defunding the police by 25 percent would:
Dear Mayor Scott,
This post is meant to be a 101 explanation of the Maryland General Assembly (MD GA).
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