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'The solution can’t solely be more police' | DC Council approves compromise budget, splits $11M between police and violence prevention programs

Council members approved $5 million for new officers and $6.1 million for other safety programs and initiatives.

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, D.C. Council voted to cut in half Mayor Muriel Bowser's request for $11 million to hire 170 new officers to the force.

Instead, council members approved $5 million for new officers and $6.1 million for other safety programs and initiatives.

A spokesperson for Councilmember Janeese Lewis George believed the revised funding would help hire around 60 officers over the next two years and some additional cadets.

The $6.1 million in alternative funding includes:

  • $3.3 million for Cure the Streets violence interrupters
  • $1.9 million for Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) violence interrupters
  • $884,000 for ONSE Leadership Academy

As of Tuesday night, D.C. had recorded 114 homicides this year, a 5% increase over the same time last time. In 2020, homicides reached a 16-year-high in the District.

The compromise comes after Mayor Muriel Bowser requested more funding to hire more police officers amidst a crime wave.

According to a press release, MPD typically hires 250 officers each year. After the department's budget was cut by $15 million in 2020, the department says it was left with a near-empty hiring pipeline. The department says it has only hired 42 new officers: 21 cadets who became recruits, 12 reinstatements, 8 senior police officers, and one leadership official.

In order to support the hiring of additional officers, Bowser sent an $11 million supplemental budget request to the Council to allow for more hiring and training.

RELATED: DC mayor hopes to add 170 officers to the Metropolitan Police Department

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Charles Allen, Chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety proposed a compromise package of investments. 

It instead uses the $11 million requested by Mayor Bowser for hiring and training more officers to investing in both traditional law enforcement and public-health-based programs. 

“Council members support a combination of strategies to reduce violent crime. The solution can’t solely be more police," Mendelson said. "If you think about it, relying only on police is a reactive strategy. Police respond to incidents of violence. On the other side, violence interrupters are proactive. Interrupters work in the neighborhoods, know the people most likely to beef, and calm tensions before retaliatory shootings can occur.”

RELATED: Threatening voicemail left for officer while testifying about Capitol riot, FBI investigating

The approved package gives D.C. Police $5 million to hire more officers and reduce overtime pressures but also doubles the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement’s (ONSE) Leadership Academies, a program that works with high-risk students within D.C. The proposal would also give an additional $1.9 million for violence interrupters through ONSE, and fund four new Cure the Streets violence interruption sites through the Office of the Attorney General. 

“The Council’s proposal here is responsible and responsive. We are ensuring investments in public safety are going directly into communities where gun violence is happening the most,” Councilmember 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.”

RELATED: National Night Out occurs in district shortly after DC Council slashes funding for extra officers

Council voted on the new budget, which included D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Charles Allen's compromise, Tuesday. The budget was unanimously passed by Council.

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