Maryland gubernatorial candidate Krish Vignarajah announced this month a proposal on police reform, three years after the fateful arrest of Freddie Gray that led to days of violent unrest in Baltimore.
The plan, titled “Rebuilding Trust Through 21st Century Community Policing,” would eliminate mass incarceration, bonuses for police involved in community activities and prioritize deescalation techniques.
“We are so far from where we need to be,” Vignarajah said in an interview Thursday. “The relationship between police and communities in Baltimore and across the state remain [uneasy].”
Vignarajah, the only female Democratic gubernatorial candidate, suggests local police departments work with mental and behavioral health providers.
To improve diversity in local police departments, the proposal recommends the state work with community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other institutions to encourage Blacks and other people of color to pursue public safety careers.
Vignarajah wants to expand a youth mentoring program from Baltimore City called Operation Safe Kids. Last year, three state delegates and a senator representing Baltimore requested Gov. Larry Hogan provide money for the program.
To encourage police officers to reside in a community they cover, Vignarajah would provide matching funds for jurisdictions for relation expenses, home-buying incentives and tuition assistant for officers to train for various programs.
Other jurisdictions have sought similar proposals to entice officers reside in a place they work.
For instance, Prince George’s County Council reviewed legislation in October to offer up to $2,500 in property tax credit to purchase a home.
Vignarajah said paying for these initiatives stems from priorities.
“My overarching principle if it’s a priority, the money is there, it’s just about how you allocate it,” she said. “It costs $33,000 to $38,000 to put a person in prison. If we take some preventative measures in place. It’s just the smart and fiscally responsible thing to do.”
Vignarajah will face eight opponents in the Democratic primary on June 26: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; former NAACP President Ben Jealous; state Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County; tech entrepreneur Alec Ross; Baltimore attorney Jim Shea; educator Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County; and James Jones of Baltimore City.
The winner will face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the November general election.