Gov. Larry Hogan Monday doubled down on his criticism of efforts to defund the police.
His remarks before a joint conference of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association in Ocean City were nearly identical to the remarks he made at a news conference at the State House on Friday in which he unveiled an $150 million initiative aimed at providing additional support for the state’s law enforcement agencies and victims of violent crime.
“Trying to reduce crime by defunding police is a dangerous, radical, far-left lunacy idea,” Hogan said.
The governor added: “Thinking that you can improve law enforcement by defunding the police is like saying that you want to improve education by defunding the schools. It is absurd. It is ridiculous.”
Hogan noted that retention issues are prevalent in enforcement agencies both in Maryland and throughout the nation.
“There could not be a worse time for anyone to call for defunding the police or cutting public safety. The fact is that our police are underfunded and under attack.”
Hogan said law enforcement officers are too often unfairly criticized and that that is counterproductive.
“Enough is enough. We cannot defund the police. We need to refund the police.”
Hogan blasted Democrats in the House of Delegates for having blocked his anti-crime package.
“We also need to get the legislature to finally agree to pass tougher laws that hold violent criminals accountable. We have been pushing this for years. Twice we passed it through the Senate. But the members of the House continue to want seemingly no accountability for violent crime.”
But not everybody said they agree with Hogan’s remarks.
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith, D-Montgomery, told MarylandReporter.com that the way Hogan has “framed” the issue surrounding crime-fighting is “really unfortunate.”
“If you are really interested in solving problems, then we need to take the politics out of this issue and dig down on the nuances.”
Smith, whose committee last session crafted a series of police reforms bills that became law over Hogan’s veto, said he rejects the suggestion that increased officer accountability might compromise public safety.
“Both of those things can happen at the same time. The way that the governor is framing it is that it is an either/or. And that is just simply not the case.”
Smith said there are no serious proposals on the table to defund the police.
“No one has defunded the police. The Maryland General Assembly did not do that. In fact, we invested more money in public safety measures than ever before.”
Moreover, Smith said Hogan’s defunding analogy involving the police and schools is somewhat ironic.
“It is funny that he uses that analogy because he is the one that pushes school vouchers and steers money away from our public school systems. That is a funny analogy to use.”
Sen. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore City, who sits on Smith’s committee, echoed similar sentiments to that of the chairman.
“The term ‘refund the police’ is misleading because police have never been defunded. Funding police has always been a top priority in Maryland too often to neglect of other needs. Law enforcement has always been better funded than education, lead abatement, violence prevention, and drug treatment.”
Carter said is she “disappointed” that law enforcement funding is often given priority over funding for violence prevention and education programs.
“We have a moral obligation to all the people in Maryland to prioritize humanitarian needs. More people are dying from overdoses than murder. Many people are dying slow deaths from generational poverty and lack of opportunity. Thousands of Marylanders continue to suffer from a dysfunctional state unemployment system that has failed them.”
Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore City, who sits on the Budget and Taxation Committee, stressed that lawmakers will carefully review the governor’s anti-crime proposals after the budget for the upcoming year is submitted.
“We will make sure that when we deal with crime, it will be from a holistic point of view.”