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DC Council passes budget including a $15 million cut to policing

A large portion of the money in the proposed legislation would be refunded to public safety efforts that are outside of D.C.’s law enforcement.

WASHINGTON — The D.C. Council held a virtual session Thursday in which members unanimously voted to approve a budget cutting $15 million from the police department. 

Previously, on June 25, D.C’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety unanimously approved a $15 million cut from the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget.

A large portion of the money in the proposed legislation would be refunded to public safety efforts that are outside of D.C.’s law enforcement.

This includes funding a new position for a Gun Violence Director to spearhead the District’s interagency strategy for preventing gun violence, more funding for the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) and more allocated funds for the city’s social work programs.

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“The council, like all Americans, is grappling with undoing centuries of layered systemic racism and its permutations throughout our society,” D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen told WUSA9 in June. “There will be no single law or single budget that could possibly provide a single remedy. This is an iterative process just like the way it is to get to where we are today.”

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The committee also passed proposed amendments that would limit the police chief to a four-year term, noting the power that comes from holding that position.

If the committee-approved budget is approved by the D.C. Council, when Police Chief Peter Newsham’s four years are up in May 2021, he would be up for an evaluation and would need another nomination by the mayor.

In the past, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Newsham have said MPD had been steadily reforming for nearly two decades and reducing funding would lead to trouble, but that they are willing to consider policies that improve accountability.

Bowser proposed a 2021 MPD budget that is less than what MPD is operating on today, and there has been a combination of cuts proposed by the mayor and the committee, according to Councilmember Allen’s office.

The proposed 2021 MPD budget is $578 million. The budget that was approved Thursday by the committee is $33 million less than what MPD is currently operating on. 

Councilmember Allen said MPD is $41.4 million over its approved $559.5 million budget for 2020, due to changes in pay, federal grants and reprogramming. 

“The reductions to MPD’s budget recommended today are responsible and responsive, but this is certainly not the end of the conversation,” Councilmember Mary Cheh said.

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