Disappointment in Mount Clare as Baltimore’s City Council Strips Funding for Baltimore Police Department’s Mounted Unit

| June 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

This week Baltimore’s City Council voted to cut $23.4 million (4%) from the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD) proposed fiscal 2021 budget. This comes as some jurisdictions around the country have moved to reduce the budgets of police departments in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.

One of the cuts will strip BPD’s Mounted Unit of its $533,735 yearly budget. The Mounted Unit is the oldest continuously-operated mounted unit in the United States. The First Mile Stable was recently constructed as the new home for the Mounted Unit and its six horses. This $3.5-million facility was built on a portion B&O Railroad Museum’s property in Mount Clare and was funded with private donations and State of Maryland grants.

District 9 Councilman John Bullock, who represents the area, voted against the amendment to defund the Mounted Unit. He was joined by District 11 Councilman Eric Costello and District 7 Councilman Leon Pinkett III.

Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he will let the cuts stand.

“I do support shifting some [BPD] funds, but I’m am not in support of this,” Councilman Bullock told SouthBMore.com. “Hopefully we can get those funds restored.”

He said First Mile Stable was important to the Southwest Baltimore community as well as building police and community relations. He additionally praised the fundraising efforts by the B&O Railroad Museum and its donors.

SouthBMore.com reached out to Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, who recently won the Democratic primary for mayor, to further explain this decision to cut the Mounted Unit, but has not heard back at this time. In regards to the $22.4 million in cuts, Council President Scott said on Twitter: “I‌’m‌ ‌proud‌ ‌to‌ ‌lead‌ ‌a‌ ‌City‌ ‌Council‌ ‌that‌ ‌has‌ ‌taken‌ ‌a‌ ‌decisive‌ ‌first‌ ‌step‌ ‌towards‌ ‌responsibly reprioritizing‌ ‌Baltimore’s‌ ‌budget.‌ We did not‌ ‌get‌ ‌here‌ ‌overnight and will have to continue this work in the years ahead.”

In an interview on WBAL Radio, when asked if these cuts would make people less safe, Council President Scott said the Mounted Unit is used for crowd control and the officers would be put back into patrols. “That’s not making people less safe, that’s actually making sure that we are moving forward with a more efficient and effective police department,” he said.

This news was disappointing to stakeholders in the Mount Clare community where First Mile Stable stands.

“We are disappointed in the City Council’s decision to vote to defund the Mounted Unit, a unit that accounts for less than 1% of the Police Department’s budget,” said B&O Railroad Museum Executive Director Kris A. Hoellen in a statement to SouthBMore.com. “The Mounted Unit is poised to move in to their new home on the B&O’s property, a $3.5-million state-of-the-art equestrian facility that has had significant State and philanthropic support. To date the City has provided no financial support to the construction of the Stable. It would be a shame for the City to turn its back on this investment in an area of the City that has seen little investment to date. Most importantly, we believe the work the Mounted Unit does with the community and children is exactly the type of work that is needed.”

Hoellen additionally provided this video as an example of the work that was slated to be done at First Mile Stable.

“We remain hopeful that the City Council will start to daylight the changes it is proposing and listen to its constituency. We thank Councilman John Bullock for his leadership on this issue,” said Hoellen.

Kintira Barbour, the community engagement liaison for the Mount Clare Community Council, said in an email statement: “We appreciate the dedication of Baltimore City leadership and know that they have to make tough decisions during these challenging times but the recent request from the Baltimore City Council to eliminate the BPD Mounted Unit was a harsh disappointing setback to our disenfranchised community.”

She added, “After decades of underdevelopment, the sight of the newly constructed First Mile Stable was our light at the end of a dark tunnel. It was evidence that our community wasn’t forgotten after years of broken promises to develop and invest. We’ve been promoting the arrival of the BPD Mounted Unit and the new facilities throughout the neighborhood because it would’ve provided much needed recreational and educational experiences to a large youth population in South Baltimore.”

The First Mile Stable has already made an impact in the community, according to Barbour. “Our community has already built a strong positive relationship with the Mounted Unit Officers and we were looking forward to welcoming them as neighbors. The BPD’s arrival was a unique opportunity to drastically improve police community relations and we’re absolutely heartbroken that this decision was made without our input or consideration of how it would negatively impact our community. We will continue our progressive journey of revitalization as a resilient community but hope that our city’s leaders will welcome our collective voice when they make decisions on our behalf in the future.”

Former BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis, who held the post until January 2018, and was part of the planning for the First Mile Stable said on Twitter: “An invaluable project we worked hard to make happen with B&O Railroad Museum. Abolishing the nation’s oldest police mounted unit doesn’t help policing or the community.”

Photos of First Mile Stable from March, 2020

Photos courtesy of Kintira Barbour

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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