D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser
Mayor Muriel Bowser Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Members of the D.C. Council have acquiesced to Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s request to hire more police officers despite a lack of public analysis showing that more bodies are needed. Bowser announced last week that she planned to request an additional $11 million in the fiscal year 2022 budget to hire 170 new cops by next year, 20 of whom she wanted in place by October. Her proposed budget shuffling, released yesterday, drew from money for infrastructure projects planned in future years that she believes can be replaced with federal dollars.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen quickly returned with a proposal of their own. Rather than give Bowser the full $11 million and 170 additional officers, the Council will vote on whether to dedicate $5 million to hire 60 more cops by 2022. The rest of the $11 million is divided among alternative violence prevention programs. The Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement would get $1.9 million to hire more violence interrupters and another $884,000 for its leadership academies, which provide wrap around services for high school students; the Office of the Attorney General’s “Cure the Streets” violence intervention program would get another $3.3 million to add four new sites.

A press release from Allen’s office called it a “compromise package of investments, with support from a majority of the Council.” But the questions Loose Lips had for Bowser last week remain unanswered. Asked what evidence her administration has to show that more cops equals less crime, Bowser leaned on D.C. residents’ calls for greater police presence in their neighborhoods.

“The only way we’re sustaining the presence that we need right now is the use of overtime, and that’s not a sustainable solution,” Herronor said last week.

It may be true that some D.C. residents want to see more officers. It may also be true that some don’t. And adding officers to reduce the cost of overtime and provide those already on patrol a needed break may be good reasons to beef up the force.

But what Bowser has failed to produce, and what the Council apparently is not demanding before it approves her call for more officers, is an analysis showing why it needs more officers, and if so, how many.

The Council’s compromise package would fund at least 60 new officers by 2022, with 20 new cops starting this year, Mendelson tells LL. The 40 officers slated to join the force next year could increase, he says.

MPD Chief Robert Contee said during budget hearings earlier this year that he could not responsibly hire more officers beyond what the mayor initially requested. Bowser’s proposed budget included 135 additional recruits, 40 senior police officers, and 20 cadets.

Allen, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, told his colleagues at this morning’s breakfast meeting that Contee said there have been improvements in recruitment since his testimony.

“I take him at his word,” Allen said, adding that the package “rejects this either-or approach and is a both-and approach” that combines traditional law enforcement with public health strategies to address crime.

The Police Reform Commission previously recommended reducing the size of MPD’s force by at least the rate of attrition. However, PRC co-chair Robert Bobb told the Washington Post this week that he believes the level of crime and violence in the city makes it difficult to argue against adding more officers.

The Council is scheduled to take a second and final vote on the fiscal year 2022 budget today. Other changes announced yesterday in Mendelson’s amendment include:

• $6 million for excluded workers

• $1.2 million for maintenance at Yards Park and Canal Park

• $450,000 to publicly open the Roosevelt High School indoor pool

• $300,000 for a new Ward 7 Roving Clean Team

Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George will also introduce an amendment that will shuffle $3.25 million within the DC Public Schools budget to hire a full-time librarian in all 118 public schools.

At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman will introduce an amendment that would give a one-time $500 payment to about 10,000 D.C. residents who had to deal with the District’s broken unemployment insurance system. Silverman’s amendment would cost about $5 million.