By now, you've heard me talk about how much of a priority public safety is for Ward 6 and across the District. And you've also heard me talk about how the approach we have to take needs to fully fund public safety, rather than falling into "either/or" arguments. We need both action and accountability when harm is committed, and we need to invest in proven strategies to prevent, interrupt, and break cycles of violence. As the Chair of the Council's Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, I've moved a budget forward today that does exactly this, and it was unanimously approved.
As the budget process advances over the next few weeks, I'll share more about our many investments in Ward 6. But given the challenges we've faced with crime and violence, particularly in the past year, I want to dedicate this entire email to the public safety budget.
There's no way to include every detail of a $1.7 billion committee budget in a single email, but I wanted to share the highlights with you.
So what does fully funding the District's public safety strategy look like? Here's a snapshot:
- Strategically investing in and expanding the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement's community-based approach to public safety by expanding violence interrupters into 25 communities across the District that have experienced the highest levels of gun violence. Also funding the agency's successful Pathways Program to serve 200 residents at risk of committing or being victims of gun violence with intervention, training, support, and employment. This budget also supports the Attorney General's Cure the Streets violence interruption program with 10 sites across the District.
- Approving the Metropolitan Police Department's full request for 347 additional police officers to serve our communities, including new recruitment and retention tools for the Department: $5.5 million in signing bonuses for new recruits and cadets, tripling the Police Officer Retention Program to subsidize tuition reimbursement and ongoing education, and more than doubling a housing incentive program for new recruits to encourage them to call the District home.
- Expanding the District's network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs where medical professionals and credible messengers work with survivors of violence in the emergency department to meet their needs and break cycles of violence and retribution.
- Funding more than $40 million to support victims through the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, including millions set aside for emergency and transitional housing for victims of domestic violence, emergency shelter housing for LGBTQ+ survivors of violence, mental health services for victims of gun violence, and grants for direct services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Expanding the District's 911 Call Center by hiring more call takers and dispatchers for District residents in need, including new training for call takers to provide telecommunicator CPR (t-CPR).
- Growing the capacity of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department with additional firefighter/emergency medical technicians and firefighter/paramedics, staying on track with purchasing and replacing our fleet of ambulances, ladder trucks, and pumpers, and making significant investments in our fire houses, fleet maintenance facility, and a new fire boat to work on our rivers.
- Saving the successful LEAD Up! and LEAD Out! Programs at the Department of Corrections; these programs work with residents before and after incarceration to provide leadership, education, and development opportunities to reduce recidivism and prepare them for successful reentry. The budget also identifies new funding for reentry services grants to help returning citizens with housing, transportation, and other emergency needs.
- Approving a transformational $251 million investment to begin the process of building a modern and safe new corrections and rehabilitation facility, which is decades overdue. This money will build a new annex to the current Correctional Treatment Facility to serve as a reimagined treatment and residential facility. The budget also approves $25 million in capital investments to maintain safe, secure, and humane conditions for residents at the D.C. Jail and Correctional Treatment Facility until the new annex can be completed.
- Rebuilding community trust and transparency by adding new requirements to make basic Metropolitan Police Department budget, hiring, attrition, staffing, and overtime reports public.
Protecting residents and consumers by funding new attorneys at the Office of the Attorney General to fight price fixing, bid rigging, and antitrust behavior, to enforce residents' paid family leave rights, and to take on public corruption and workers' rights cases.
- Most of our residents walk through the court doors without a lawyer because they can't afford one, and the consequences can be devastating. This budget invests more than $25 million in civil legal services, eviction defense and diversion, and new coordinated legal intake systems to help residents navigate the complex and intimidating legal system with the support of an attorney.
- Creating a new pilot program within the Department of Behavioral Health’s Crisis Services team to provide counseling to survivors of natural and human-made disasters, like house or building fires, structure collapses, public transit crashes, and other small- to mid-size incidents. This idea came out of my staff working with Southwest neighbors displaced during the fatal and tragic fire at 301 St., SW, earlier this year. My team recognized there weren't immediate, rapid response resources for lower-income people who endure traumatic events. It's my hope this pilot program can pave the way to offering these services more broadly moving forward.
This is only a snapshot of the investments that we just unanimously approved, but I believe they highlight the comprehensive and strategic approach needed to keep DC residents and communities safe and healthy. This is a "both/and" budget that reflects the shared priorities of our residents. We're a resource-rich city with a lot of programs - but the coordination to bring the full weight of our efforts to bear is more important now than ever.
As always, thank you for your support, for your engagement on so many issues with us - but especially on public safety, and a special thanks to all those who joined my Ward 6 Budget Town Hall and have continued to weigh in. If I can answer any questions for you, please let me know.