Back in the prehistoric days of 2015, Montgomery County, like other counties, sent police officers to assist Baltimore City in the wake of the disturbances following the death of Freddie Gray. A few weeks ago, Baltimore sent checks to the assisting counties as reimbursement for the cost of that assistance. Today, County Exec Ike Leggett sent the check back to the City.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett sent a check for nearly $300,000 back to Baltimore, declining reimbursement for the assistance officers from the Washington suburb gave the city during unrest last year.
Leggett sent a letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake this week, saying, “While we certainly appreciate the gesture, Montgomery County, like Baltimore City, is part of the great state of Maryland, and we accepted the call for assistance with the belief that the City would do the same for us in a time of need. Consequently, we are returning the check.”
Montgomery joins Baltimore County in foregoing reimbursement for sending officers to assist the city when rioting and looting broke out in the hours after Freddie Gray’s funeral. Gray, 25, died in April 2015 after sustaining a spinal cord injury in police custody.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced in December that he wouldn’t seek $257,000 in reimbursement from the city. He said at the time that the county offered assistance on an emergency basis.
“The city is our neighbor, and when a friend is down, you lend them a helping hand and help them step up,” Kamenetz said then.
While Baltimore County did it first, it gets penalized in the pat on the back department because three of its Councilmembers had the nerve to complain about Kamenetz’s decision. Shockingly, they were all Republicans. Quel surprise, huh?
Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson and Perry Hall, said the money could be used to fill open positions for police officers. He also said declining the reimbursement could set a precedent for future events.
“The county executive is absolutely correct that we should be a good neighbor and Baltimore County acted appropriately to send in support last April,” Marks said. “My only difference of opinion is I think that we should accept the reimbursement.”
Councilman Todd Crandell, too, said the money could be spent to fill police vacancies. The Dundalk Republican said the county also needs to add air conditioning to schools and make improvements to parks. “Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is not going to solve every problem we have, but I could sure use it in our district,” he said.
Councilman Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican, said the move sends a message that county officials are OK with how the riot response was handled.
“I’m concerned that by forgiving the debt, it shows approval of the way the riots were handled by Baltimore City,” Kach said. “Our policemen who were sent to the city were put in harm’s way.”
Good for Kamenetz and Leggett for doing the right thing.