WASHINGTON, DC – DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has notably been against defunding the police, has found herself at odds with her own city council after the council’s Public Safety Committee’s recent unanimous approval of a budget that cuts more than $15 million from the police department.
Bowser told NPR,
“We fund the police at the level that we need it funded. And my [city] council has my current budget proposal in front of them to give every neighborhood in Washington, D.C., the police support that they need. And so my budget doesn’t fund it a penny more than we need and certainly not a penny less.”
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser is caught between Black Lives Matter activists and police as the city budget becomes a battleground for the country’s debate on overhauling law enforcement. It's a dilemma faced by other big city mayors in the U.S. https://t.co/9QIO3Wbs4K
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 28, 2020
As we previously reported, the mayor has overseen significant decreases in crime in DC areas with increased police presence.
At a recent news conference, Bowser described her concerns with the council’s budget submission:
“I’m not in favor of decreasing the police department with no consideration on how calls for service are going to be handled. So unless … they are also prepared to tell residents to stop calling 911, I’m not sure who is going to respond to those calls.”
Bowser also told Fox News that “decreasing the size of the force in a ‘rushed way’ will have a negative impact on public safety.”
Fox News reports that the money from the budget cuts will be diverted to affordable housing, domestic violence shelters, and social programs such as a “director for gun violence prevention.”
Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chairman Charles Allen explained to Fox News his rationale behind the cuts:
“The real question is why police are asked to respond to calls that don’t fit within their job description. We’ve collectively outsourced all the problems we don’t want to deal with to police, like mental health crises, homelessness, illegal fireworks, illegal construction.
Our calls for service have outpaced population growth even as violent crime has dropped.”
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser caught between activists, police in funding battle https://t.co/2XNyZIhxRD
— FOX 5 DC (@fox5dc) June 29, 2020
According to Fox News, Allen also indicated that the council’s “strategy” for the effects of the budget decrease includes “natural attrition” of police officers.
Allen reportedly tweeted,
“So how will this play out? In essence, unless money is transferred by the mayor, there will be an effective hiring freeze on new officers. Add attrition into the mix and force numbers will drop by about 200 officers.”
Such proposed budget cuts do not appear to be enough for some of the council’s constituents, a number of whom gathered outside the home of Councilmember Allen shortly after the council’s proposed budget was submitted.
The protestors shouted for Allen to “wake up” and one, speaking through a bullhorn, declared,
“When we say abolish the police, we mean abolish the police, not 2 percent. We abolish the police.”
Councilmember Allen responded on twitter to criticisms that the proposed budget cuts did not go far enough, asserting that what appeared to be a $15 million cut to the police budget was actually a cut of almost $33 million:
“There’s a union-contracted $25 million in pay increases in the FY21 MPD budget. Looks like “increase” over last year’s *approved* budget. But MPD employees started getting those increases mid FY20 – it just didn’t show up on paper.”
— DCist (@DCist) June 26, 2020
“So, the Committee proposal for next year lands us at $568 million, which includes those legally req’d $25 million in raises. Compared to the FY20 *revised budget* of $601 million MPD is working with right now, it’s nearly $33 million less – a 5.32% cut. Decidedly not an increase.”
Apparently addressing his critics, he tweeted:
“You may not agree with where we landed, but I want to make sure everyone has the facts. Budget transparency is important, and then you can decide what you think about elected leaders’ decisions for yourself. Thanks for reading.”
This proposed budget cut to DC police is not the only action the council has taken over the objections of Mayor Bowser.
On June, 9, the DC City Council, led by Charles Allen, unanimously approved the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Act, with no input from the public, the police, or police representatives.
In response, the DC Police Union issued a statement noting,
“The proposed language in this Bill erodes many of the rights that police officers in this city are currently afforded and creates a dangerous path to unchecked violence in the District…. the outcome of the current language in the Bill (as proposed) will undoubtedly result in an exponential increase in crime and a mass exodus in personnel.”
So far, the DC city council has taken two significant actions to defund and disband the police: sweeping police reforms, and unanimously approved budget cuts. Both actions are over the objections of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. The Mayor will likely be facing additional opposing actions from her city council, as Councilmember Charles Allen has promised on his website:
“I want to make clear that this isn’t the end of reforms. The emergency legislation [of police reform] is one act we can take, along with many others through the budget and further legislative reforms.”
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