Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott answers questions about his comments Wednesday that he will develop a task force to find ways to reduce the police budget over the next five years. The mayor also responded to what the governor had to say about the idea.
MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT: Well, first I think that the governor should actually have the facts and stop trying to answer things in what I call cookie-cutter comments. This is about doing this in a responsible way. It's not about "defund." I know that the governor loves these Republican talking points. But this is about re-imagining what public safety is in Baltimore.
As you know I have asked the governor for meetings about public safety. He decided that that meeting should be just between staffs. And I understand that my staff and his staff had a good meeting, but I'm still hoping that he and I get to discuss that at length.
We have to understand, especially as we sit over here on my birthday, that this city has operated the way that it has every single year of my life. And every single year of my life, we've been one of the most violent cities in the country. This is not about defunding. This is about reimagining public safety. And as I said when we announced that we should do this last year, this isn't a new thing. It's about doing it in a responsible way so that we can reallocate funding, making efficiencies in our police department, making sure that they have the technology that they need, making sure that they are responding out to the things that they should be responding out to.
But in a city that has the world-class health institutions that we have, our police department should not be the first ones going out to things with overdose and mental health. We have the best people in the world to do that. We are going to still have a police department. And we're talking about is putting a group of people together to see how we can responsibly reimagine our city budget so that the burden is not solely on the police. And if the governor wants to actually have a real conversation about that he knows how to get a hold of me.
- Well that kind of took my question. But maybe you could elaborate just a little bit more on why five years? Is there something behind five years?
MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT: No Alexa, it's about doing it responsibly. This is not about today saying, OK yeah we're going to take $100 million and give it away to another agency. It's about doing it in a responsible way that does. The way that we're going to do this is analyze it to see how these things are possible, where they're possible, how we're going to do it. And be a city that understands the way that I do, the way that the governor does not, because he's never had that gun in his face, understands the violence in this city, understands how we need to support the police department and make them a better police department. Understands that we're in a federal consent decree. We're going to do this in a way that honors all of that, public safety, consent decree, the things that are going on, while also understanding that we have to change the way that we operate, so that we are impacting everything in our city that ties to public safety.
- Mayor, you have the power of the purse now, so why wait for the governor to give up control?
MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT: No it's not-- The control, Lisa, is different than the purse. The City of Baltimore is the only, as of right now and has been, as you know, I've been talking about this for 10 years, the only jurisdiction in the country that does not control, I mean in the state, and only one of two in the country, that does not locally control its police department. What folks are doing who are trying to attach one to the other is conflate issues. The power of the purse issue is different than local control. Making sure that we are analyzing how we do our budget in a responsible way so that we can look at it over a five-year period to do the right thing for our citizens is separate than local control, something that we should have had a long time ago here in Baltimore City. So for all the folks, especially folks on the state side who like to say like "Oh, the city hasn't done this with its police" and this and that, well actually it's been them that has been sitting on the sidelines while we've been here busting our butts every day. And that's what I'd like to say about that.
- So through an election and the public helping to decide, you don't want to do it, unilaterally deal with funding, you want the people of the city to help you decide?
MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT: The funding. The funding, Alicia, take a step back. Local control isn't done yet. It has to happen via charter amendment. But there's also going to be an advisory group that I'm going to appoint to talk about local control, all the details in local control, what version, what things are going to happen there. In addition to that, I am adding on to that group, tasking them with, I'm going to be tasking them with looking at our budget and how we budget and police, looking for efficiencies, looking for how we can reimagine public safety and put things where they need to be, in other agencies if needed.
This is not something where we're coming in and saying, this is what we're doing. We're actually going to do the tough work that, quite frankly, should have been done when I was in high school. And looking at how the city budgets, and reimagine it in a responsible way. This is not something that we're going to do overnight. We're going to be, I do everything this way. Making sure that we're making every step necessary. Because anybody who thinks that the way the city government has been operating for the 37 years that I've been alive is the right way is a fool.