DC lawmakers weigh how to fund police, violence prevention programs

After a year of back-and-forth over initiatives to defund the police, D.C. lawmakers are again considering how much of the city’s budget should go toward officers and how much should be directed to other violence interruption programs.

The D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary will make a recommendation to the council’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget on how D.C. police and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) should be funded.

The agency oversees a large part of the District’s violence prevention programs, many of which lost funding in the last budget cycle.

“The place we start from in this budget is so different than where we found ourselves a year ago,” said committee chair Charles Allen. “The budget a year ago, the proposed budget, wiped out all of our violence intervention funding, creating really significant instability.”

A number of residents testified in support of the continuity of the programs they say are working in their neighborhoods.

“My hope is that this budget will help them to embrace a continuum of care that keeps their dream team in our dispirited neighborhoods consistently,” said Ward 8 resident Brenda Richardson, was one of dozens of witnesses who want to see the OSNE’s programs expanded. “The only concern I have is that agencies receive federal funding for amazing programs. However, when the funds have been spent, the program evaporates. It is for this reason that many of our neighborhoods are not stabilized and thriving.”

Office of Neighborhood Engagement Director Del McFadden testified about the funding level he’s seeking for his agency, and what it plans to use toward different programs.

“We’re at a pivotal point where we have the resources, but we still need input from the community,” McFadden said. “This is all hands on deck … we need all ideas or expertise and everyone at the table the community to help us with these issues.”

Some residents want to see money meant for the D.C. police rerouted to ONSE and other violence prevention programs through the schools and the attorney general’s office.

“I’m here on representing myself as a middle-aged, white, upper-middle-class D.C. resident who is asking you today to defund the Metropolitan Police Department,” said Laurel McLaren in her testimony.

She said since moving to Ward 4, she has seen the neighborhood over-policed.

“I want all parents in the District to feel the sense of safety and opportunity that I have for my children, and from what I’ve seen the police are just not part of creating safety and well-being for Black and brown families,” she said.

Ahead of the hearing, the D.C. police union tweeted that the force is at its lowest number yet, with no hope for funding to hire more officers in the upcoming budget.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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