Summary of How Dr. Calvin Ball & HoCo Council Gutted the BWC Program
Broken Promises/Failure of HoCo Leadership
On March 24, 2021, Dr. Calvin Ball publicly announced that his administration would propose full funding for a Howard County Body Worn Camera (BWC) Program to be fully implemented and operational by December 2021.
On April 19, 2021, the County Executive formally submitted details of his proposed FY2022 BWC program of approximately $3.8 million. The tables in the slideshow are excerpts of the County Executive's submittal to the County Council, with a breakdown of how the total funding is allocated to the three departments affected.
The $981,000 in PAYGO funding covers BWC equipment for 300 HCPD Officers and 77 Sheriff's deputies. The remaining $2,856,000 covers funding for 26 new personnel including 10 in the Police Department, 13 in the State's Attorney's Office, and three in the Sheriff's office. It also covers on-going operational costs.
The BWC program was to be fully funded as of July 1, 2021 with full "go live" implementation by the end of December 2021.
At the time Dr. Ball said, "[F]ocusing on public safety and reinforcing public trust remains a priority for my Administration, and we're pleased to be moving this popular program forward in Howard County."
On May 17, 2021, Dr. Ball abruptly announced delay of the implementation of the BWC Program by gutting the proposed $3.8 million budget by $1.7 million and transferring this amount to the Howard County Public Schools. The school system continues to be underfunded and this year is no exception. However, although there were numerous alternative sources in the $1.9 billion budget to find this $1.7 million, the County Executive made the disappointing decision to gut funding for the BWC program and push back its implementation to approximately one year, or longer.
The May 17 announcement created a flurry of events that spiraled the entire approval process for this important funding.
From May 19 through May 24, 2021, County Council Chair Liz Walsh introduced an amendment to the budget that would effectuate the transfer of funds from the BWC program as proposed by the County Executive. If passed as introduced, it would have the effect of gutting the FY2022 $3.8 million BWC budget and delaying implementation. The amendment was subsequently amended to narrow its scope and purpose to holding $476,000 of the BWC budget in contingency.
From May 25 through May 26, 2021, Councilmembers Christiana Rigby and Opel Jones, at the request of Dr. Ball, co-sponsored an amendment to implement Dr. Ball's gutting of the FY2022 BWC budget as outlined in the May 17 announcement. As such, while BWC cameras could indeed be purchased at any time in FY2022 through PAYGO funding, there will be no BWC Program staff to manage or operate them until May 2022 and possibly beyond. This would effectively delay the BWC Program "go live" implementation date by up to a year, or longer.
During the day period, Council Chair Liz Walsh introduced two amendments that would hold a substantial portion of the BWC funds in contingency ($1.7 million or $1.4 million) rather than permanently transferring them to the school system.
A summary of the amendments and the breakdown on the budget is shown in the table below.
On May 26, 2021, the County Council adopted the budget. The amendment introduced by Councilmembers Opel Jones and Christiana Rigby passed with a 4-1 vote. As shown in the table below, Councilmembers Jones, Rigby, Jung, and Yungmann voted 'yes' and Councilmember Walsh voted 'no'. The amendment introduced by Councilmember Liz Walsh to place $476,000 in contingency passed with a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Walsh, Jung, and Yungmann voting 'yes' and Councilmembers Jones and Rigby voting 'no'. The other Walsh amendments that moved either $1.7 million or $1.4 million to contingency funds were not adopted.
The BWC program is strongly supported by Howard County residents, Howard County Police Department, Sheriff's Office, and the State's Attorney. On the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder, this set of actions by Dr. Ball and the County Council demonstrates a breathtaking level of insensitivity to our community's needs, especially those of our fellow black and brown community members.
This must not stand! There are numerous alternative sources in Howard County's $1.9 billion budget to provide additional funds for education.