Funding For 30 Police Officers Left Out of Budget Wish List

Funding For 30 Police Officers Left Out of Budget Wish List

Omission comes at a time when police department is under a microscope

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Absent from Montgomery County’s $5.8 billion budget for next year will be more than $1 million to fund 30 additional police officers to address retirements and other turnover in the ranks of the 1,300-officer department.

The County Council’s Public Safety Committee had sought the additional funding in a reconciliation wish list last Thursday.

Council Vice President Sidney Katz, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he was disappointed the funding for the police officers wasn’t included.

Katz said during committee discussions that it might be necessary for the council to ask the county executive for funding at some point in the middle of the fiscal year. He said the council would only make a request if county revenues are on the plus side and there was room in the budget.

“If there’s additional funds that have been found, and we have the additional money available, that’s when we’d ask for the supplemental budget,” he said.

Montgomery’s police department has come under scrutiny from the public and the council since last summer when 41-year-old Robert White, of Silver Spring, an unarmed African American man, was shot and killed by a male officer. Additionally, a white female officer earlier this month used a racial slur when responding to a call about two black men loitering outside of a White Oak fast food restaurant.

In response, the council has passed legislation requiring the county to partner with an outside law enforcement agency to conduct an independent investigation for all officer-involved shootings, and echoed calls for more community policing.

Elrich is expected to appoint a permanent police chief later this summer, as Acting Chief Russell Hamill will step down in June to lead the Laurel Police Department.

Council member Will Jawando, who sponsored the independent investigations bill, said before hiring additional police officers, the department must undergo a “fundamental change” in law enforcement tactics, and adopted a community policing approach. He says he wants to see how the new chief approaches racial equity in policing.

“I think our police department on the whole does a great job. We are one of the better staffed agencies in the country, and I think it’s probably a prudent thing to do to get our new chief in and figure out these issues with equity,” he said.

The council is expected to approve the fully-amended budget at its meeting Thursday.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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