[guest post by Dana]
Mayor Bowser in Washinton D.C. finds herself in a bit of a pickle these days. Facing pressure to defund the police, the Mayor explains why she believes her budget addresses the current concerns highlighted by recent protests:
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser responded Monday to criticisms and calls to defund the police that have been made by protesters marching through the District in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis.
She said D.C. has been reforming its police department for nearly two decades.
“We’ve been on the pace of reforming our department for the last 18 years; we’ve had the commitment of wonderful police leadership,” Bowser said. “This department is different than many places in the country because of that steady pace of reform over the last 18 years.”
Bowser said the budget she submitted focuses on public safety and added that money for D.C. police has increased slower than for social service agencies.
“We saw a 12% change in investments in (the D.C. police) since 2015,” Bowser said. “DHS, our Department of Human Services, has seen a 75% change. Likewise for schools, both (D.C. Public Schools) and public charter has seen a 40% change. (D.C. Healthy Families), which handles a lot of our health programs, has seen a 21% change. (The Department of Behavioral Health) that handles our mental health programs has seen a 15% change. The Office of Victim Services, in the last five years, has seen a 90% increase in funding.
“So, I just want to be very clear that the budgets that we have sent to the council over the last five years have recognized all parts of public safety, policing, but certainly intervention and opportunity programs,” said Bowser.
During an interview with NPR, Bowser answered a question about whether she will be reconsidering her budget submitted last month, which increased police funding:
Not at all. What our budget proposal, and I can’t speak for other departments, but they fund the people that we need. And certainly we wouldn’t want the people on our forces not to have the proper training or equipment that makes for better community policing. And I think you also have to look at the context of our entire budget. I’ve been mayor for five years. We’ve seen police spending increase 12% in those five years. At the same time, our population has increased and our calls for service have increased. If you look at our safety net programs, they have increased 75%. And I’m talking specifically about human services and homeless services.
Chief of Police Peter Newsham echoed Bowser’s comments:
“We have been on a path to reform for policing in Washington, D.C., since 2002,” Newsham said, before addressing some of the history of the department.
“For those of you who were here prior to 2002, you’ll remember a series of articles about the D.C. police that came out in 1999, where they painted the D.C. police as using more excessive force, shooting more rounds, poor investigations, everything soup to nuts, which painted MPD in a negative light,” Newsham said.
He added that the U.S. Department of Justice got involved and found a pattern and practice of using excessive force.
After several years, D.C. police came into compliance with an independent monitor, according to Newsham, with the monitor finding that the department “was committed to fair, unbiased and constitutional policing.”
“That is something we are very proud of,” he said.
In spite of her critics, Bowser is sticking to her guns with regard to police funding:
…my budget doesn’t fund it a penny more than we need and certainly not a penny less.
Last week, Bowser faced public criticism from President Trump after she demanded that he remove military personnel and federal law enforcement sent to her district during the George Floyd protests:
Bowser told ABC News that the president’s criticism of her only served to draw more protesters to her district.
Also, concerning the rumors that she is being considered as a possible running mate for Joe Biden, Bowser remained the politician that she is:
“Angie, you already know, I have the best job in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said with a smile when asked if she was being considered as Biden’s running mate.
Angie asked again and got a more definitive answer.
“I haven’t, Angie, but I know that we need a change,” Bowser said. “We need to change the senate and we need to change the White House. That’s what I’m going to be spending my time — making sure that we get that word out in Washington, D.C. and I certainly will help in any way that I can.”