In Budget Advocacy, Education, Montgomery County Budget, Montgomery County, MD, Police Accountability, Racial Equity Montgomery

Budget season just ended in Montgomery County! This was an opportunity to envision a Just Recovery for our County — a recovery that provides dei machsoro, resources sufficient for each person’s needs — and also to answer the call to reimagine how we define and fund public safety for our County. Thanks to the consistent work of advocates plus increased community pressure in the past year, the County Executive introduced a budget that included a number of the priorities we and our partners have been asking for, including additional funding for rental assistance, increased mental health crisis response, more funds for automated traffic enforcement, and fewer traffic enforcement officers.

Unfortunately, neither the County Executive nor the County Council included funding for key student supports, such as culturally competent social workers and restorative justice programs, while at the same time choosing to fund in full the Community Resource Officer (CRO) program that continues the harmful practice of policing students. In addition, the County Council did not add the necessary funds to fully staff the mental health crisis reponse program and they approved a budget that increases the overall funding for the Montgomery County Police Department.

Click on the tabs below for updated information about each of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget priorities put forward by JUFJ and our partners, including the Montgomery County Defund Policing & Invest in Communities Coalition, Silver Spring Justice Coalition (SSJC), and the Montgomery County Racial Equity (MORE) Network, and to learn how you can get involved as the work continues.

Following the lead of the student organizers and our partners who have been calling for police free schools, we asked the County Council to add $2.6 million to the budget to fund a culturally competent licensed clinical social worker at each MCPS high school.

Update: Although Councilmember Glass raised a motion to put $2.6 Million into the FY22 budget to fund licensed clinical social workers at every MCPS high school during a worksession on Wednesday, April 21, the final budget approved by the County Council had NO funding for culturally competent social workers – a huge disappointment to students, educators, and community members tirelessly advocating for the full removal from police in schools.

During budget worksessions, the five councilmembers on the joint Health and Human Services/Education and Culture committee promised to fund behavioral health supports for students, pending the final results of the County’s new Student Wellbeing Action Group and Reimagining School Safety initiative. We and our partners will hold the Council accountable for that promise.

We are disappointed that the FY22 budget includes full funding for the harmful Community Resource Officer (CRO) program, which will replace the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. CROs are not police free schools. CROs will simply be stationed outside school buildings, with the same ability to criminalize, arrest, and traumatize students as SROs. And in the case of elementary and middle schools, the CRO program adds new police presence where there was none before.

Interested in joining the fight for police free schools? Email devorah@jufj.org to join police free schools work!

County courts are open and 7,000 Montgomery County households have been at immediate risk of eviction for months. We called on County leadership to fund emergency rental relief, plus long term rental assistance, to prevent thousands of families from becoming homeless. 

Update: The FY22 budget passed by the County Council includes an additional 24 million dollars in rental assistance from last year, with increased funding for affordable housing through the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF), rental assistance, eviction prevention, tenant education, and rapid re-housing programs. It also includes a 1 million dollar increase to County home ownership assistance programs.  

In the last year, police officers killed Finan Berhe (z”l) and Kevin Costlow (z”l), two beloved County community members in clear mental health crises. When mental health professionals respond to mental health crises, our residents get help without criminalization. Before the budget season began, County Council and County Executive had increased funding to create more mobile health response teams. We urged the Council to add to that funding to create enough teams for full 24/7 coverage across the entire County.

Update: This budget cycle, the Council approved funding in the FY22 budget for six new mental health crisis response positions. There were also six additional positions funded via a special appropriation in FY21. With two people on each team, six new mental health crisis response teams have been added to the County. This is an important step towards the goal of having mobile crisis team coverage 24/7 for all parts of Montgomery County. JUFJ and our partners will continue to advocate for more mental health crisis response teams to meet the needs of our community.

Black and Latinx drivers in Montgomery County are heavily racially profiled. Removing traffic enforcement from police responsibilities is a critical first step to reducing racial profiling on the roads. The County Executive’s proposed budget nearly doubled the funds for automated traffic enforcement, which decreases the need for traffic enforcement officers. We asked the Council to correspondingly decrease the funding for traffic police, and move those funds to other critical areas of need.

Update: The Council’s approved FY22 budget cut 9 traffic enforcement positions. During the May 5 Public Safety budget work session, MCPD promised a reorganization of the traffic enforcement division to account for the reduction in positions. 

While we’re glad that the number of traffic enforcement officers will be cut in the upcoming budget, there’s still work to do to engineer safer streets to prevent traffic violations. Our partners in the MC Defund/Invest coalition continue to advocate for safer streets without police presence. 

The Council is considering important legislation to require more robust data collection by the police department (Bill 45-20), and we continue to urge the Council to ensure that no new funds are added to the police budget to fund the new data requirements. This budget season, we also urged the County not to invest additional funds into training — as laid out in the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce’s budget working group report, training does not decrease use of force incidents. The most effective way to decrease police brutality is to decrease the number of interactions between police officers and the public.

Update: The Council approved a police budget of nearly $283 million for the Montgomery County Police Department, an increase of approximately one percent from FY21. The budget eliminates 27 officer positions which were largely unoccupied, but adds additional money  to the police budget to fund two Internal Affairs positions that are intended to speed up internal investigation timelines. JUFJ and our partners will continue to advocate for using existing funds, and not new funds, for efforts to increase transparency and accountability in the Montgomery County Police Department. 

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