New jail, paramedic school, new fire trucks all part of DC mayor’s vision under proposed budget

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s vision for the city includes police officers back in schools, a new jail and a school for paramedics. It’s all part of a massive, $19.7 billion proposed budget Bowser presented to the D.C. Council on Wednesday.

The council will now dive into the details and debate elements of the fiscal 2024 budget. A core portion of the budget is devoted to public safety and funding all the positions D.C.’s police chief said he can fill.

The proposed budget also allocates $5.4 million in bonuses and $1 million in education incentives to attract new police officers to join the ranks. There’s $21 million set aside to support training citizens to take on some duties of sworn officers.

“We have funding to be able to convert civilian jobs that are currently done by uniformed police officers into civilians, being able to put those officers onto the streets,” City Administrator Kevin Donahue said.

The department will be thinking creatively about what roles covered by police can safely be done by civilians, security guards and other contracted employees.

“So for example, you know, we have ticket writers who write tickets in communities and downtown, there could be an opportunity at some point for other people, non-police people, to take nonemergency type reports like a theft report,” Chief Robert Contee said during a news conference following the budget presentation.

The proposal allocates $277 million to expand the Correctional Treatment Facility, a slightly newer part of the DC Jail. The expansion would allow the city to close its aging detention center, which houses most inmates. A 2021 inspection by the U.S. Marshals found unsanitary conditions and water issues at the facility, prompting the city to move 400 inmates to another, federal facility.

“Now, importantly, in the capital plan, what you’ll see is we moved about $30 million to the first next three years of the [Capital Improvement Plan] to allow for there to be a full planning and design. And then we trued up the construction costs to reflect what the assessment is to be able to build that, so we can have shovels in the ground for that facility by the end of 2026,” Donahue said.

The mayor’s budget also returns student resource officers back to schools, spends $1 million on a new paramedic school and allots $29 million to replace the city’s fire trucks and ambulances.

“If you’ve ever gone to graduating classes for fire and EMS, our D.C. residents are often EMTs. Paramedics often do not come from D.C. because it’s very hard to get a paramedic license, so we will start a D.C. paramedic school to do for paramedics what we’ve done for the cadet program for EMTs,” Donahue said.

Crime scene analysts previously working at D.C.’s unaccredited Department of Forensic Sciences would move to D.C. police.

“This will allow the crime lab to focus squarely on getting accreditation back and being able to do the core work that’s reflective of what every other forensic lab in the country does, which is the core work of testing evidence,” Donahue said.

The agency lost accreditation in the spring of 2021 and has been unable to process most crime scene evidence, including ballistics and fingerprint evidence without the industry certification.

Megan Cloherty

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

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