In response to Mayor Bowser introducing her budget proposal today, Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, said:

The budget should not move the District backward at a time when D.C. should be creating public safety in every zip code. District leaders must stop throwing money at failed tactics and start investing in solutions that can keep us safe. We urge the D.C. Council to make both short-term and long-term investments in our safety this budget season. And we remind Councilmembers that our safety includes safeguarding our fundamental rights.

Because the mayor’s budget proposal does not address police misconduct, the Council will have to act. Police misconduct costs the District millions of dollars, spreads distrust of police, and creates a toxic work environment for officers who are trying to follow the law. To address police misconduct, the D.C. Council must empower and fully fund the Office of Police Complaints so it can provide critical oversight over the Metropolitan Police Department.

The Council will also have to fully fund school safety because the mayor’s budget fails to keep our young people safe. Our kids are struggling, and they are being underserved, which has ripple effects across their neighborhoods and the District as a whole. Criminalizing our families when kids struggle to get to school will not make our schools, our youth, or our neighborhoods safer. To create safe and nurturing schools where D.C. kids can learn without fear, the D.C. Council should pass and fund the School Safety Enhancement Act of 2023 and should provide full funding to maintain and the expand Safe Passage program to more areas.

We also urge the Council to fund safety within the D.C. Jail because the people housed there face brutally inhumane conditions. Residents lack running water, are being served inedible food in unsanitary conditions, and are held in solitary confinement. These horrific conditions do nothing to rehabilitate people and in fact intensify the probability of violence. There are several bills before the Council that address jail conditions and which Councilmembers need to pass and fully fund.

It’s time that District leaders got serious about safety and started investing in solutions that can prevent crime, violence, and abuse of power before they ever happen.