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Council Members Ask for Swift Action on BPD Audit Recommendations

Dominique Maria Bonessi

Baltimore City Council committee got a look Thursday at the audit that found the police department has little, if any, way to track or control overtime costs. The council members want Mayor Catherine Pugh and the department to move quickly to implement the recommendations in the report.

As Finance Director Henry Raymond briefed the council’s budget committee on the recommendations, Council President Jack Young got caught up in the wording of the first one:

“The BPD should improve its time and attendance policies. BPD should deny officer requests to use vacation and floating holidays to cover last minute absences. BPD should issue a policy that prohibits the awarding of paid days off without the use of accrued leave.”

“Should can be interpreted in different ways. I want to make sure this should is really what it it is,” Young told Raymond.

“I agree, I do not disagree,” replied Raymond.

“Must issue a policy of awarding paid days off,” said Young.

Karen Stokes, spokesperson for the mayor, assured the president and the committee that Pugh and the department are committed to implementing the recommendations.

“We hope very, very soon to announce new leadership at BPD,” said Stokes. “And unequivocally before that person sets foot in Baltimore City they will be made aware of what some of our priorities are and made a commitment to Mayor Pugh that this is the first order of business.”

City Solicitor Andre Davis says the recommendations are directly tied to the federal consent decree that requires police reforms.

“Everyone one of these deficiencies contributes to the turmoil, the lack of accountability within the police department itself, so every one of them relates to the consent decree,” said Davis.

Pugh said Wednesday she wants to update the department’s technology to keep better track of work hours, overtime and unmarked police vehicles. It’s unclear how much that would cost, but it could easily run into the millions of dollars the city doesn’t have.

Western district Councilman Brandon Scott suggested the city turn to the state for the money.

“Have them fund some of these things since they have been shaken in some of their responsibility in keeping the department in their control in the first place,” said Scott.

In fiscal year 2019 $2.5 million were allocated from the rainy day fund to the consent decree, but according to the city's budget manager, that will not be enough to pay for all the new technologies the city needs to implement under the decree.

The committee demanded that the short-term recommendations—requiring officers to show up for roll call and supervisors to monitor officers’ work hours--be done by July 1, 2019. Raymond says those recommendations would be implemented within six months or less. The long term recommendations—the new technology—will take longer and cost more.

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