Baltimore police union told there could be pay cuts, layoffs because of COVID-19 budget shortfall
Sgt. Mike Mancuso said the police department is being asked to make cuts that are too much for the strained department to handle amid a pandemic
The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore police union leadership issued a fiery letter to its members Thursday night opposing what it called city budget plans proposing pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs by city leaders bracing for budget shortfalls amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso said he and other union leaders met with City Hall officials Thursday night and discussed how to address a looming $103 million revenue shortfall for next year. Mancuso’s letter said the city is looking to make $11 million in personnel cuts.
Mancuso said the police department was presented three possible options to reduce department spending, but the cuts are asking too much from a department that is grappling with continued high rates of violence amid the pandemic. The union has also warned of the dangers facing officers and their families as they continue to work in dangerous conditions.
“I am furious and disgusted with the Mayor and his administration for asking our members to shoulder the burden of this crisis both physically, and now financially," Mancuso wrote in the two-page letter sent out to the department’s 2,500 members.
He said 350 employees have been quarantined, 63 who are awaiting results and 19 that have tested positive.
Mancuso also noted that the city had recently agreed to pay officers an additional $200 per paycheck as hazard pay, which the city leaders are now trying to “recoup,” a move he called “deceitful and insulting.”
“Now we are being asked to sacrifice even more while we continue to put on our uniforms and place ourselves on the front lines of this pandemic for the citizens of Baltimore,” he said.
City officials could not immediately be reached for comment Friday morning. A Baltimore Police spokeswoman also declined to comment.
Baltimore is expected to end this fiscal year with a $42.3 million deficit, as typical economic activity slows to a crawl because of the coronavirus epidemic.
The city’s finance department also forecasts that the city will bring in about $100 million less in revenue than anticipated for the fiscal year that begins in July.
As the city searches for cuts, budget director Bob Cenname said last week that “everything has to be on the table" because of the size of the shortfall.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said at an April 1 news conference that the city hadn’t yet contemplated laying off employees, but cautioned that it was a possibility.
“I personally don’t want to see layoffs, but if the budget dictates that, we have no other choice unless our president sends us some relief,” Young said, repeating his call for more federal funding to be directed toward cities like Baltimore.
According to the FOP letter, the first option to reduce spending would freeze all salaries and prevent officers from receiving raises, including an across-the-board 3% raise officers were set to be paid in July.
Another option would require officers to take up to six furlough days depending on their salary. However, Mancuso said, officers would still be required to work those days and forgo pay because sworn officers are deemed “essential employees."
A third option would require the already understaffed department to lay off 173 non-essential employees, which he said could include officers assigned to the mounted, marine and traffic units.
The potential cuts come as the department has worked to rebuild its ranks under the federal consent decree. In addition to attempting to hire 300 more officers, department leaders are also trying to shift more work toward civilian employees to further free up officers for patrol and other functions.