Washington

‘Misguided rhetoric’: Md. Democrats spar with governor over ‘Re-Fund the Police’ plan

Maryland Democrats are lambasting Republican Gov. Larry Hogan‘s $150 million plan to increase police funding, calling it merely “rhetoric.”

State House Speaker Adrienne Jones said over the weekend that Mr. Hogan‘s “misguided rhetoric of ‘refund the police’ is beneath him and the dignity of his office.”

His attempt to politicize the critical work that the legislature has already done to have more transparent and inclusive law enforcement does nothing to move our state forward,” said Ms. Jones, Baltimore County Democrat.

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson echoed Ms. Jones’ sentiments, saying the governor’s “divisive rhetoric does not make us safer.”

“Genuinely improving public safety isn’t about just writing a bigger check,” said Mr. Ferguson, Baltimore Democrat. “A real effort to stop violence and make communities safe requires a coordinated plan that gets executed purposely every day.”

Mr. Hogan‘s “Re-Fund the Police Initiative” plan includes $50 million for raises and bonuses for state police agencies, $45 million for increased state funding for all local police agencies and $24 million for body-worn cameras and other training.

It would provide $10 million in grants for neighborhoods to add safety equipment, $1 million for the state chief of police and sheriffs’ associations, and funding to double rewards for crime tipsters.

Ms. Jones pointed out that the state legislature already passed a sweeping package of police reform bills over the summer, which requires officers to wear body cameras, gives residents a role in the administrative disciplinary process for police and changes how police-involved shootings are investigated.

“The House stands ready to have an open and honest conversation about improving policing and reducing crime in the state once there are real ideas — not rhetoric,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Hogan announced his plan Friday during a news conference and decried calls to divert police funding as “dangerous, radical, far-left lunacy.”

“The reality is that our police are underfunded and under attack,” the governor said.

The majority of funding for his proposal would need approval from the General Assembly, where Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

Mr. Hogan said he will be “trying to convince them that these are the right things to invest in” before the budget session begins in January.

State Sen. Will Smith, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he applauds the investments in public safety and “attracting the best and brightest,” but decries “rhetoric that pits investment against transparency/accountability.”

“We can increase accountability/transparency and invest in public safety,” the Montgomery Democrat said. “We are both grateful for the service of law enforcement and weary from the pain of police brutality. Our reforms must take both into account.”

During the Friday news conference, the governor signaled there may be more police-related proposals coming, including changes to repeat violent offender laws and a plan for more judicial transparency.

“Enough is enough. We cannot defund the police. We need to refund the police,” Mr. Hogan said. “I can tell you the state of Maryland will not defund the police as long as I’m governor.”

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