ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced historic funding for public safety in his proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, including an $11 million increase for the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) – the largest increase in a decade. Photos of the event can be found here.
The budget includes $3.7 million for HCPD to support 24 additional patrol positions, the largest increase in sworn personnel in 15 years and a critical investment to improve response times, support community policing and address emerging crimes such as human trafficking.
County Executive Ball has also included funding to support the recruitment of 36 new sworn firefighters and emergency medical personnel, and for the purchase of fire equipment, vehicles, and supplies. With the approval of the proposed budget Department of Fire and Rescue Services (DRFS) will have added more than 80 authorized positions, over 25 more than the previous four-year period.
Howard County is recognized as one of the safest communities in our nation, and we always will work to make sure our residents feel safe and are safe. Improving police and fire staffing levels benefits our community, and also improves the working conditions of our valued first responders, who rush toward danger when others are escaping it.
In addition to new patrol positions, the proposed budget supports transparency and accountability in law enforcement with $1.2 million to expand the body-worn camera program to all sworn HCPD and Sheriff’s Office personnel. Nearly $200,000 would be used to create an independent civilian Police Accountability Board to review and investigate allegations of law-enforcement misconduct.
“We know officers need to be in good mental and physical condition and the addition of these new positions will reduce the potential for our officers to have to cover extra shifts, taking time away from their families, personal lives, and time to rest and recharge,” said Police Chief Gregory Der. “Patrol is truly the backbone of the police department, responding to emergency calls and people in-need 24 hours a day. We need to continue to focus on making our patrol service as strong as it can be.”
To meet the needs of the criminal justice system, the FY23 capital proposal contains $6 million in systemic renovation funding for police and fire facilities and $3.8 million for renovation of the Detention Center, including design of its new mental health unit.
The proposed FY23 budget for DFRS also includes 2 new positions to bolster the Mobile Integrative Community Health (MICH) initiative which provides primary healthcare and preventive services to the community, ultimately reducing the need for emergency care from 911 services.
Through the funding of new positions, equipment, and capital improvements, the department will allocate our resources to continue to deliver high quality services and maintain our public safety infrastructure. Importantly, we will ensure the continued optimal staffing levels on our fire engines and ambulances while also expanding our community health advocacy with our Mobile Integrated Community Health team’s efforts to provide primary healthcare and preventive services for the community.
County Executive Ball also highlighted efforts to replenish the Fire Fund, which was facing a recurring deficit when he took office in 2019. Over the previous decade, as Howard County’s population increased there were more incidents that required DFRS response and expenditures increased by 68%. This resulted in capital investments being cut in half.
The Ball Administration took action to bolster the fund in Fiscal Year 2020. This adjustment allowed for a tripling of capital investments in the DFRS compared to the previous four-year period.
Since Fiscal Year 2020, the Ball Administration has invested in:
- Construction of the new Waterloo Station in Jessup
- A new station in North Columbia
- Renovation of the Banneker Station
- Garage door replacements for Bethany and Ellicott City Stations
- Eight ambulances, nine fire engines and one tanker
- Additional cisterns for rural Howard County
- Increased staffing to meet modern safety standards with four firefighters per engine.
“On behalf of approximately 350 sworn Howard County Law Enforcement Officers, we want to thank Dr Ball and Chief Der for pursuing the need to increase the number of Patrol Officers in our department,” said Jamie Flynn, President of Howard County Police Officers’ Association, FOP Lodge 21. “We appreciate the County Councils’ understanding of this critical necessity and look forward to the approval of County Executive Ball’s FY23 budget.”
“The communities we serve will benefit significantly from this increase to the authorized patrol staffing,” said Clayton Davis, president of the Howard County Police Supervisors Alliance, FOP Lodge 143. “Having additional officers dedicated to patrol helps to reduce response time, increase officer availability and promote proactive community engagement and interaction.”
“The Howard County Professional Fire Fighters appreciates County Executive Ball's continued support of the career fire service in Howard County,” said Richard L. Ruehl, President of IAFF Local 2000. “We are thankful for his forethought, and the support of the County Council, to ensure the necessary revenue is available to begin, and continue with, vitally important systemic improvements to the fire and rescue service in the County.”