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Bowser wants to add $11M to her proposed budget for more police officers; Council seeks $5M compromise

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser submitted her revised District budgets, asking for additional funding to add 170 officers to the police department. D.C. Council members are proposing a compromise.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser submitted her revised District budgets Monday, asking for additional funding to add 170 officers to the police department.

In a tweeted letter addressed to the D.C. Council, Bowser said funding for additional officers is “another critical step in our comprehensive public safety approach.”

Bower’s proposal calls for spending $11 million to hire the additional officers.

In response to the mayor’s proposal, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council member Charles Allen, who chairs the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, proposed a “compromise package” of $5 million to boost police staffing as well as additional spending on what they called  public health-based programs for combating violence.

“The solution can’t solely be more police,” Mendelson said in a statement.

in her letter, Bowser’s proposal pointed to the council’s $15 million cut in the 2021 budget.

“When we began the budget development cycle in the fall of 2020, the forecast for [the Metropolitan Police Department’s] recruiting and hiring in FY22 was bleak,” Bowser wrote, “based on the Council’s $15 million cut to the FY21 budget, as well as a challenging time overall for law enforcement.”

She said that D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee has “challenged the MPD team to rethink old approaches” and that the department has re-engaged with more than 500 applicants to support hiring in the fall.

“This additional hiring is essential because our communities cannot wait another 18 months for new recruits to be hired, fully trained and assigned to patrol,” the mayor wrote.

Bowser said the department has 200 fewer officers now than it did in September.

“Unless the Council acts now, MPD will continue to shrink by approximately 120 officers over the next 14 months,” she wrote. “My proposal will allow MPD to stabilize at approximately 3,615 officers and is critical to slowing the steadily increasing burden that our officers are facing due to understaffing.”

Bowser said the additional $11 million for hiring officers would come from “redirecting several infrastructure investments.” She said her original budget, which was granted preliminary approval by the council, already makes “historic levels of investment” in violence-prevention programs and provides $59 million to fund the Building Blocks DC approach to reducing gun violence.

Council proposal: $5M for police hiring

In a news release Monday, Mendelson and Allen said the counter-offer has support from a majority of council members ahead of a finale vote Tuesday.

Their proposal would trim Bowser’s proposal of $11 million for police staffing to $5 million, which they said would still allow the department to maintain its hiring pipeline and reduce overtime. But it would repurpose most of the other proposed funding to violence-interruption contracts by the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and $3.3 million for the Cure the Streets program run by the Office of the Attorney General.

“Council members support a combination of strategies to reduce violent crime,” Mendelson said in a statement. “The solution can’t solely be more police.”

The level of funding in the council proposal would allow D.C police to hire roughly 55 recruits and 30 cadets who could convert to sworn officers, according to a fact sheet from Mendelson’s office.

In a statement, Allen said: “Law enforcement and public health-based approaches are both critical to reducing gun violence. It might be the easiest path, but now’s not the time to fall back on police-only responses when we know a more well-rounded approach will have better immediate and long-term results in stopping the next shooter.”

Other measures: Funding for school librarians

In other budget news, Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George introduced an amendment Monday to allocate $3.25 million within the DC Public Schools budget to guarantee that a full-time librarian is in every DCPS school.

“Librarians are essential, but we have 36 DCPS schools without full-time librarians, nearly half of them in Wards 7 and 8,” George tweeted.

“Our students have struggled during the pandemic, and opportunity gaps that were already vast have widened,” she wrote. “We know students of color are more likely to have fallen behind. We’re investing in high-dosage tutoring but our support for students’ academic recovery can’t stop there.”

The D.C. Council will meet Tuesday on the District’s budget.