City Council members breezed through the numbers on the city’s largest expenditure Wednesday night — its proposed fiscal year 2025 budget for its Police Department, which stands at about $593.1 million.

That’s a very modest downtick from the fiscal year 2024 policing budget of $594.5 million. The decrease comes from cost shifting for some civilian jobs to a state funding source, meaning that there will be no cuts to the number of positions in the department, according to the mayor’s office

The continuing “civilianization” of the Police Department — converting roles, many of them administrative in nature, that officers used to do and having civilians do them instead — was a recurring theme in the budget presentation by city officials.

As the budget hearing moved toward the Q&A section, council members asked a variety of questions on their constituents’ behalf. Here’s some of what they asked, and how the city’s police commissioner, Rich Worley, responded:

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When will the Baltimore Police Department exit its federal consent decree?

The continued monitoring of the Police Department by federally appointed authorities has put constant pressure on the city budget. The agency’s “compliance bureau,” which deals mostly with making sure officers are in line with the consent decree, has a proposed FY25 budget of $74,625,779.

Public safety chairman Mark Conway, who represents District 4, asked Worley for a timeline on when the city might be able to exit the agreement. Worley expressed some optimism, saying he has held out hope that could happen by the end of his contract — due to end about two years from now.

“They know we’re trying,” Worley said of the federal judge overseeing the decree and the independent monitoring team gauging the Police Department’s compliance.

The commissioner stressed that the department is 600 officers short of its budgeted strength, which he said would be the “biggest hold up” in exiting the decree.

What’s the department doing about officers who sit in their cars?

Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton asked for an update on progress in the Police Department’s efforts to address a perennial citizen complaint: officers “sitting in their cars,” typically looking at their phones.

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Worley explained that, unlike when he was working patrol, officers file many reports and even write citations on their phones from their cars, but he conceded that there’s a need for patrol units to spend more time on foot.

He said a recent audit showed that the time spent on foot patrol, a priority he has been urging, has risen to about 15%, or roughly an hour per shift.

“Sometimes they’re going to sit in their car,” Worley said. “I’m not naive to think some of them aren’t just sitting there doing nothing, but we’ve cut down a great deal on that.”

What about the indifference mentioned in the Brooklyn Homes shooting report?

Councilwoman Odette Ramos wanted to know, in detail, what the department was doing to follow up on a key finding from its self-critical review of its response to the tragic Brooklyn Homes mass shooting last year: that its officers’ reluctance to engage the crowd before it erupted into violence was driven by “indifference.”

Worley deferred to Sarah Ritter, the deputy chief of community policing, who said the department has been reexamining its “neighborhood coordination officer” program.

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Ritter said the department sent out a memo in April emphasizing that it is every officer’s responsibility to practice community policing, a tenet that holds that more interaction with citizens, particularly officers helping to solve community problems, are the best way to improve relations and restore trust.

Ramos was apparently not impressed with the response, pressing Worley and Ritter on what exactly was being done to change that culture of indifference: “How do we get there? What is the plan? ... Who is in charge?”

Worley said he wasn’t sure if the department would ever “get rid of indifference,” saying that some people just have that built into their DNA. Ramos countered: “Then they shouldn’t be police officers!”

Baltimore Banner reporter Adam Willis contributed to this report.