WASHINGTON – Today the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety voted its FY2021 budget out of committee. The budget now advances to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and first vote on July 7. 

The following can be attributed to Monica Hopkins, Executive Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia.

“After considering an unprecedented amount of testimony during this truncated budget season, we commend the Judiciary Committee for restoring the Mayor’s cuts, and in some cases, increasing funding for critical public safety programs such as violence intervention and prevention; trauma-informed services for victims of violent crime; and re-entry services, including funding for the first year of a three-year pilot housing program for returning citizens. 

“Importantly, today’s committee budget also restores the four-year term limit to the office of Chief of Police. While this doesn’t provide decision-making power to community members, it does afford the Council and public a real opportunity to assess the efficacy of the Metropolitan Police Department and its leadership. We applaud this step towards increasing MPD’s accountability to D.C. residents.

“The Judiciary Committee also took some steps to undo unwarranted increases to MPD’s budget, but it’s far from enough. A sincere commitment to overhauling the role of policing in public safety requires urgent action from the entire Council to finish the work the Judiciary Committee began. This means making greater cuts to MPD’s budget in the Committee of the Whole and reinvesting those dollars in communities by replacing police officers with counselors in schools, expanding funding for mental health programs and substance abuse treatment, ensuring access to quality healthcare for residents in Wards 7 and 8, and investing in safe and affordable housing.

“After the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last month and the public outcry that followed, the D.C. Council and Mayor Bowser proclaimed that Black Lives Matter. But to look at the D.C. Jail population and all available MPD data on arrests, use of force, and stops, their work is far from over. D.C.’s Black population has borne the brunt of systemic racism that begins in our public schools and, for too many D.C. residents, ends in the jail or a federal prison hundreds of miles from the District.

As I testified last week, the District’s budget is a reflection of its values. The Mayor and Council must now give what thousands of D.C. residents demand: divest from MPD, and invest in Black lives.