Despite concerns from Council members about MPD behavior and lack of community trust of authority, the D.C. Council voted to keep additional resources. (Courtesy Photo)

By Carl Thomas
Special to the AFRO

A recent uptick in crime has forced City officials to make some very difficult decisions. 

At the forefront of these decisions is the obvious public outcry for less police presence in Black and Brown neighborhoods versus what seems to be an (on que) exponential growth in violent crime. Residents want answers regarding the six percent increase in violent crime as compared to this time last year. 

Last week, in a letter from Mayor Bowser addressed to District of Columbia Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, the Mayor requested an additional $11 million for the immediate hire of up to 22 officers between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30 and another 170 officers during fiscal year 2022, which begins October 1st. The Mayor summarized her position in the letter, 

“We have an opportunity to stabilize MPD’s police force and avoid the stress and burn-out our officers face, while improving MPD’s ability to respond to incidents, close cases and enhance the safety of our residents.”

In response to Mayor Bowser’s request, Chairman Mendelson (D) was direct and fairly spot on with the overarching public opinion that, “The solution can’t solely be more police.”

“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,” Mendelson continued.

Chairman Mendelson was joined by a chorus of Council members who echoed his concerns and added notes of their own. Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis-George (D) turned her attention to the timing of Mayor Bowser’s proposal. 

“We already had a gun violence crisis in late May. So what changed? What changed is we had a series of shootings in areas that don’t usually have them. When it turned into a political crisis, it became about assigning blame,” said Lewis-George. 

That sentiment wasn’t only presented from Council members representing Wards, as At large Council member Elissa Silverman (I) expressed disdain for the Mayor’s proposed increase. 

“More police may make Jim Acosta feel more safe at Le Diplomate, but it’s not going to stop shootings where they happen in this city.” 

Last Tuesday, the D.C. Council unanimously rejected Mayor Bowser’s request, instead deciding to set aside $5 million for half the number of officers, while directing the remaining funding to violence interruption efforts.

Mayor Bowser retorted, “I put forth an $11 million proposal for new police officers based on what Chief Robert J. Contee said he needs right now. was only willing to do half of what he requested. As Mayor, I will continue to work with the Chief to get him what he needs to protect our residents and visitors, and my commitment to a comprehensive approach to public safety that includes violence interruption and associated social service and job opportunities remains firm.” 

Council member Charles Allen (D- Ward 6) was also firm in the vantage he and every other member of the Council held.

“We’re not going to write a blank check,” Mr. Allen pointed out that D.C Police Chief Robert Contee III testified in June, before the Council, that the Department could only handle the hiring of the (already funded in FY 2022) additional 195 officers. 

The question now becomes how they have increased their training and hiring capacity in such a short time and does this plan of action further compromising the safety of the residents of the District of Columbia?

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