Baltimore Sheriff Sam Cogen endorsed Sheila Dixon for mayor, saying the administration of Mayor Brandon Scott has been “dysfunctional” and difficult to work with.

Cogen’s endorsement means the city’s two elected law enforcement officials are backing Dixon, following Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates’ endorsement earlier this month.

In an interview, Cogen laid out a series of examples in which he said the city has blocked his efforts or created problems.

“I’m trying to navigate a system where no one’s responsive. I can’t get anyone [in City Hall] to make any decisions,” Cogen, a Democrat elected in 2022, said. “And the decisions they’re making seem counterintuitive, and impact the way I can recruit and retain people.”

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Cogen also said a judge’s clerk was recently robbed near the courthouses, businesses surrounding the courthouses have closed up, and said the courthouses themselves , which are maintained by the city, are dirtier than ever.

Cogen was misrepresenting issues that have been discussed between City Hall and his office, Scott’s office said, and even suggested Cogen was asking them to break the law.

“Mayor Scott has said repeatedly that public safety is too important to play politics with ...,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “Mayor Scott will always do the right thing the right way, in accordance with the law, no matter how frustrating that is for Sheriff Cogen.”

One of Scott’s key accomplishments has been a historic decline in homicides, but the Dixon campaign — joined by Cogen and Bates — has sought to undermine that progress, saying crime remains too high and that quality of life crimes are going unaddressed.

“We deserve more in this city than to focus on the murder rate,” Cogen said.

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Traditionally responsible for courthouse security and evictions, Cogen has sought to get his agency more involved in police responsibilities such as event security and street enforcement. But doing so, he said, has underscored the yawning pay disparity between his office and the Police Department.

He said he identified an unused $1.2 million sitting in his budget that he wants to pass along to his staff. But he needs city approval, which Scott denied in January, three months after Cogen had made multiple requests.

Scott wrote that he had to take into account the city’s structural budget deficit as well as how a salary adjustment might impact negotiations with the city police union. He also cited a recently negotiated, three-year contract with the deputies union, which Cogen had asked the Scott administration not to ratify prior to him taking office.

On Monday, the mayor’s office said the money isn’t available in the first place and is being used to pay for overtime.

“The Sheriff’s Office is trending over budget and is projected to end FY24 with a deficit,” they said.

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But the sheriff’s office said that wasn’t the case at the time he asked for it, and Cogen chafed at having to ask Scott for such permission.

“He’s not supposed to tell me how I spend my money and my budget,” Cogen said, saying he is an elected official and suggesting the city’s oversight was “unconstitutional.”

After not getting an initial response from the city, Cogen in November directed his deputies to take advantage of a clause in their current contract that says they get extra pay when their work constitutes “crime suppression,” which he said he ran by the Attorney General’s Office first.

The city claimed Cogen was using the pay code “in a way not envisioned” and that they shut it down “pending review of payroll payments made under this code.”

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Cogen cited other examples that he said show poor coordination by the city.

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries.

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