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An All-Hands-On-Deck Moment

We all deserve to live in a community where we feel safe. All Ward 1 families need to be able to enjoy our public spaces and community amenities without fear. I myself am raising a family here and like many of you, my family’s safety means everything to me. That’s why I have been so concerned about the ongoing violence in the District and in our ward.

I’ve taken a comprehensive approach to public safety, with 3 areas of focus: Prevention, Policing, and Prosecution.  I voted for a police budget of around half a billion dollars each year I’ve served on the Council. I’ve brought millions of dollars for violence prevention to LeDroit Park, Columbia Heights, Park View and across Ward 1, and I’ve supported similar investments across the District.

I’ve long focused on the root causes of crime and how to prevent it with programs and services that support people who are struggling with mental health and substance use disorder issues and homelessness, and kids and adults at risk of falling into illegal activities.

When it comes to the second and third components of my comprehensive approach – Policing and Prosecution – I work closely with MPD’s 3rd District and 4th District Commanders to advocate for prioritizing police resources to high-crime parts of the Ward and to hear what tools they need from the government to effectively address crime.

We had a robust conversation with Police Chief Smith about this last night in a Town Hall I convened for Ward 1 residents. While the Chief and I are not in agreement on all the details, we are on the same page when it comes to giving MPD the tools they need to do their jobs.

I believe it’s a problem that the crime lab hasn’t been accredited for several years. That’s a problem for every case and it’s a tool that’s not working as it should in support of policing. It’s also a problem the U.S. Attorney’s Office is still declining the majority of cases. That’s a tool that exists and is not working as it should in support of policing.

We are going to continue the conversation today. We are going to discuss and think together critically about aspects of the bill and the effects it will have on our communities – for example, if MPD declares a drug free zone for five days, how will that impact the services we are providing to people struggling with addiction who tend to return to the same spots to receive drug treatment and counseling? It’s something I’ve discussed with the Chief and we’ve gone back and forth with questions and answers and we’re working it out.

I am here to listen today. We have a lengthy list of people prepared to give testimony and I want to hear what they have to say. As I mentioned, I have concerns, but we all have the same goal. There are aspects of this legislation that can work for Ward 1 and for the District if we work together to ensure that we take account of concerns and unintended consequences and address them in the legislation.

One final note:

There are other important public safety measures before the Council that we are considering. Let’s not put all our hopes on one piece of legislation. We have CM Pinto’s bill, CM Robert White’s bill. I’ve introduced three bills on public safety: one that addresses recruitment, one: the failing 911 dispatch center, and one: helping police close more homicide cases by increasing support and protection for witnesses.

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. It’s not just about the police –there are a lot of government agencies that are part of this. Council plays role as well. We want to make sure the Mayor and law enforcement agencies can use the tools they have already. Passing bills and passing bills and passing bills is not going to get us out of this situation. Passing bills without critically thinking about the short-term and long-term effects they will have on prevention, policing, prosecution, and people’s lives isn’t going to get us out of this situation. We must do ALL of the work.

Let’s talk about all these things. Let’s not just talk about one bill as the magic solution. That’s not realistic. And let’s acknowledge that we all want the same thing, and if we work together with integrity and respect, we can accomplish what needs to get done.

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