Amid a renewed focus on police brutality and systemic racism, calls to defund police departments and invest instead in community and social programming have sparked a national debate. On Sunday, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council announced plans to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. Council President Lisa Bender told CNN that they intend to “rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe.”
But during a TIME100 Talks discussion on Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told journalist Katie Couric that he believes calls to defund the police are “a terrible idea.” “You’ve got to invest in those communities and … help with some of the underlying socio-economic problems,” the Republican governor said. “But eliminating or defunding the police is not the way.”
Citing Baltimore as an example, Hogan spoke of how city officials have been able to improve the relationship between police and the city’s residents by “by investing more in our police … In recruitment, in training, in equipment, trying to teach people about de-escalation.” He added that the city’s police department — which is majority minority — has “spent a lot of time in the community working with folks,” and achieved “a little bit more trust, and a little bit more communication.”
In Baltimore — like in many cities around the world — thousands have taken to the streets to demonstrate against systemic racism and police brutality in largely peaceful protests.
Hogan compared the past few weeks of protests to those that broke out in Baltimore in 2015 after the murder of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody after he was arrested for allegedly carrying a switchblade. Gray’s death was ruled a homicide, and the six arresting officers were charged with 28 criminal charges — including second degree murder — but were later acquitted. Violence broke out during demonstrations over Gray’s death; some people allegedly engaged in looting and arson and hundreds were arrested. Hogan, who had just become the governor of Maryland, deployed the state’s National Guard to the city.
Hogan told Couric that Baltimore has “made a lot of progress” since then, and said he’s proud of the thousands of the citizens who have come out to peacefully protest.
“If you look at what happened in Washington … and you look at what happened in Baltimore less than 40 miles away the same night, it was almost a completely opposite response,” he said. He added that the decision to use tear gas to clear peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square so President Trump could take photographs at St. John’s Parish was “the wrong thing to do.”
“We certainly have by no means solved all the problems of Baltimore or in police departments across our state,” he said. “But we have taken some really big steps and made some real progress.”