The D.C. Council voted on Tuesday to have the Metropolitan Police Department report its overtime costs once it reaches 5 percent more than what the budget approves. It’s the latest legislative action aimed to hold the police accountable. 

The bill was in direct response to the Bowser administration’s reallocation of funds to cover overtime costs at the Metropolitan Police Department. In late October, Bowser transferred $43 million from the city’s budget—including $28.3 million from the Department of Health Care Finance—to MPD to cover overtime costs that almost exclusively related to protests about Minneapolis police killing George Floyd. Bowser’s team blamed the deficits on federal inaction.              

“While we couldn’t reverse the existing MPD expenditures,” says Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, “We can strengthen the Council’s checks and balances to make sure that the mayor does not write another blank check to MPD in the future.”

She, along with Councilmembers Robert White (At-Large), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and Vince Gray (Ward 7), introduced the emergency legislation. Emergency legislation means the bill will go into immediate effect for 90 days unless Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoes it. 

Councilmembers saw the bill as a way to address police’s handling of protests. In recent weeks, various videos posted online show officers using chemical irritants on residents protesting against anti-Black racism and police brutality. The mother of 20-year-old Karon Hylton, who was killed in a traffic crash involving police, was maced while she protested for her son. (The Council outlawed the use of chemical irritants to disperse First Amendment activities over the summer, but it does not appear to be working as intended.) 

Meanwhile, video of this past weekend’s protests showed police standing by as some of the thousands of mostly maskless Trump supporters that descended on D.C. tore down memorials at Black Lives Matter Plaza, councilmembers noted. At one point during discussion of the bill, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White raised his phone up to his webcam to show councilmembers a video of officers tearing down Black Live Matter signs. (MPD tells the Post signs were not allowed at that location.)    

“There just is a disparity in the way the communities of color are being policed during protests versus White protesters. It’s hurtful,” says Robert White.  

“The public deserves to know how MPD is spending this money,” adds Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. “Transparency is one means to an end … it does not change policy and practice of MPD and how it is in some cases unequally applied … we still have a long way to go.”  

The bill passed near unanimously, despite objections from Bowser. According to the Post, Bowser urged the Council to withdraw the bill in a letter, saying “We do not have the luxury of simply declaring that we will not work to keep our residents, visitors, and businesses safe, that we will not facilitate peaceful First Amendment assemblies and demonstrations, or that we will not support presidential movements when they occur.”   

Everyone but one member voted yes. A close ally to Bowser, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, voted present. Todd will soon be replaced by Janeese Lewis George, who wants to hold MPD more accountable.     
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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