By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
The members of the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD), disbanded Gun Trace Task Force stole upwards of a million dollars in fraudulent overtime pay over the years before they were all jailed. The actions of the notorious group seem to be the embodiment of BPD misconduct members of the Baltimore City Council say they want to help prevent.
According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, City Council leaders plan to hold monthly accountability meetings about BPD, specifically in reference to their overall budget and law enforcement strategies.
“Currently, the Public Safety Committee has held quarterly meetings with the police department to get updates on violence reduction and the Budget Committee has met as requests for supplemental funding has been made and when we have our annual fiscal year budget meetings,” Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett (D-8) told the AFRO.
“My understanding is that Chairman Scott (Brandon Scott, D-2) and Chairman Costello (Eric Costello, D-11), intend to hold hearings monthly now, so that the Council is much more engaged in assessing their [BPD] policy strategy and budgetary management.”
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who oversees the city’s budget office and the BPD, had no comment through a spokesperson regarding the Council’s new initiative.
Overtime pay for the BPD has exploded in recent years (although BPD has struggled to stay within overtime budget parameters since the 1990’s), due in large part to a shortage of patrol officers. According to the Sun, the BPD needs about 1,200 patrol officers to operate effectively. However, 800 officers are currently assigned to patrol. Councilman Scott, who is chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, believes the patrol issue could be eased by augmenting the BPD’s auxiliary police force. He wants to see the current auxiliary police total of 11, increased significantly, with at least five officers in each of the city’s nine police districts.
“Traffic accidents, special event traffic, monitoring city watch cameras, and taking reports of minor crimes like larceny from auto or vandalism are just a few ways auxiliary police are used,” Scott said. “These volunteer hours free up officers to focus on being proactive on violent crime.”
According to the city’s finance department, as an example, the use of auxiliary police to manage traffic during Ravens games could save $235,000 annually and save $182,000 a year utilizing them the same way at Orioles games.