Statement on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia before the DC Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety Budget Oversight Hearing on The Metropolitan Police Department and The Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement


Nassim Moshiree, Policy Director

June 10, 2021


Good afternoon. My name is Nassim Moshiree, and I am the Policy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC). I present the following testimony on behalf of our more than 15,000 members and supporters across the District.

The ACLU-DC is committed to working to dismantle systemic racism, improve police accountability, safeguard fundamental liberties, and advocate for sensible, evidence-based solutions to public safety and criminal justice policies. The ACLU-DC is also an active member of the Police Free Schools Coalition and the Fair Budget Coalition. The following testimony addresses our concerns and recommendations for the District’s FY22 budgets for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE).

Recently, we testified at a joint hearing before this Committee and the Committee of the Whole in support of the comprehensive recommendations of the D.C. Police Reform Commission (PRC) in their report, “Decentering Police to Improve Public Safety.”[1] The repeated theme of that report and of much of the public testimony on that day was the need for District to completely rehaul its approach to public safety by ending our reliance on police and criminalization, and investing meaningfully in the programs and resources that have a demonstrable impact on the health and safety of District residents – including deeply affordable housing to end DC’s homelessness crisis, mental health and substance abuse resources, trauma-informed violence intervention and interruption services, school-based mental health and other supports for students, and additional interventions that strengthen the District’s safety net. Although the PRC report fell short of making the call for specific dollar amount divestments from MPD, its recommendations provide a clear roadmap of how to shift public safety resources and divest responsibly and effectively.

Thanks in large part to federal dollars made available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Mayor’s Proposed Budget for FY22 includes investments in some of these critically needed public safety and public health resources. For example, we are pleased that the Mayor has allocated $7 million in funding to divert some 911 calls to non-police responders as part of a pilot program. However, we find that the Mayor’s budget falls short of making the transformative investments necessary to truly shift the District’s approach to public safety to one that centers public health instead of police.

In her budget presentation on May 27th, the Mayor highlighted $59 million in investments to gun violence prevention as part of her Building Blocks initiative announced earlier this year.[2] While the ACLU-DC supports the stated intent of the Building Blocks initiative to take a cross-departmental, public health centered approach to reducing gun violence in the District, we remain concerned about the lack of detail provided by the Mayor to both the Council and the public about how these investments will be spent, what cross-coordination will look like for the various agencies that receive funding, and how the programs the Mayor plans to launch with these funds will be monitored and evaluated to determine their effectiveness. Without that transparency and specificity, there is a significant risk that the programs the Mayor puts in place will be underutilized, that agencies will not achieve intended outcomes, and that the District will then abandon these efforts and revert to the harmful status quo of arrests and criminalization.

The Mayor’s proposed budget for MPD remains over half a billion dollars and includes funding to hire 135 new MPD officers and to expand the MPD cadet program by 100 cadets, despite there being no evidence that more police lead to greater public safety.[3] The Council should redirect this proposed increase to meet any number of more pressing public safety needs, like expansion of trauma-informed mental health services for victims of gun violence, or to effectuate changes that will decenter law enforcement where they are not needed.  For example, this money can be moved to hire and train non-law enforcement professionals in D.C.’s Department of Transportation to take on traffic enforcement as recommended by both the D.C. Police Reform Commission and the D.C. Jails & Justice Taskforce.[4]

We also urge the Council to adopt the recommendation of the PRC to eliminate the MPD School Safety Division and create a community-led process to reallocate that roughly $12 million (in the Mayor’s proposed FY22 budget) to invest directly in services and resources that better protect youth and promote a safe and healthy learning environment.[5] This money can be effectively spent to expand school-based mental health services, hire additional psychologists, social workers, and counselors, expand trauma-informed trainings for teachers and staff, hire school-based violence interrupters, and increase community-based safe passage efforts. The Mayor’s budget also includes $500K in American Rescue Plan funding to the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) for training of School Resource Officers.  We ask that the Council move this funding to better serve educational supports for students.

Additionally, the Council could redirect funds from MPD by shifting investigations and discipline operations out of the Department. We recommend that the Council expand the authority and capacity of the Office of Police Complaints to not only improve its ability to investigate police misconduct but allow it to enforce discipline when there has been a determination of wrongdoing.[6] Moving some of these functions to an independent agency outside of MPD will significantly increase police accountability.

And we ask the Council to pay closer attention to funding for MPD’s FOIA office, for which the Mayor has requested zero dollars in FY22 (there was $1.4 million approved for this line item in the FY21 budget).[7] As we have testified in the past, there are significant problems with MPD’s responses to FOIA requests, and we are concerned by what the lack of funding in that line item may mean.

With regard to the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE), we are pleased that the Mayor’s proposed budget includes a significant increase over last year in funding to expand violence interruption efforts, including $7.8 million to hire 52 additional violence interrupters, $4.5 million to expand the Pathways Program through the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, and $2.2 million to support a new effort to provide housing for victims of gun violence or those at risk of gun violence.[8] However, we have questions about how this housing assistance will work, including what level of housing assistance it provides, how many people will be served by it, and how they will be able to qualify or apply for it. The greatest concern we have about the investments in the ONSE office is that they seem to be made largely with federal relief aid. If this is the case, we worry about how this may impact the sustainability of the programs once the American Rescue Plan dollars are spent. 

The FY22 Budget provides an opportunity to re-create a system of public safety that divests from law enforcement and reinvests those dollars in community supports, health care, schools, mental health, housing, and jobs.  As many Councilmembers have voiced, we cannot go back to the status quo and we cannot take a piece-meal approach to this problem. We hope the Council will continue to seek the answers to some of the questions we and other members of the public have voiced and that the Council’s FY22 budget reflects a comprehensive approach that accounts for the entire universe of public health and public safety needs.  


[3] Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Operating Budget for Metropolitan Police Department, available at

[4] District of Columbia Police Reform Commission (PRC). “Decentering Police to Improve Public Safety: A Report of the DC Police Reform Commission.” April 1, 2021. Section V, Recommendation 5, Page 101. Available at

[5] District of Columbia Police Reform Commission (PRC). “Decentering Police to Improve Public Safety: A Report of the DC Police Reform Commission.” April 1, 2021.Section III, Recommendations 1-3, Pages 69-75. Available at


[6] District of Columbia Police Reform Commission (PRC). “Decentering Police to Improve Public Safety: A Report of the DC Police Reform Commission.” April 1, 2021. Section VIII, Recommendation 3, Page 163. Available at

[7] Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Operating Budget for Metropolitan Police Department, available at

[8] Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Operating Budget for Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, available at