Racial Justice Legislation & Community Updates
We have had a lot going on in the last few days here in DC and across the country. I want to make sure Ward 1 is up to speed on how we, as a city, are responding to the protests, calls for police reform, and budget reallocations.
Last week following the killing of George Floyd, I wrote to residents to express my solidarity with the African American community and reaffirm my stance and commitment for more police accountability, the de-militarization of our police, and deeper investment in our communities. If you missed the email or are new to our newsletters, you can read it here. There’s also a suggested reading list if you are just beginning to get involved with racial justice issues.
That evening, as many of us watched the news, we witnessed our residents teargassed. Two days later, I introduced legislation that bans the use of tear gas by District police and requires the Mayor to communicate this policy to any agency operating in the District. It is unacceptable to use tear gas or any chemical weapon that is banned in international warfare on our residents. Read the full press release here. The language from this legislation was incorporated into the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, as an amendment by Councilmember David Grosso. The amendment allows the ban on tear gas to go into effect immediately.
On Friday, I joined the Committee on Health’s budget oversight hearing to ask questions around program funding. More specifically, I discussed with the Department of Behavioral Health the need to more robustly fund the homeless street outreach program and mobile crisis operations. These programs are helpful in ensuring that we are responding to community needs with services, and not unnecessary police interactions. As we reenvision how we respond to our community’s needs through a racial justice lens, we will need to make further investments in our health and human services programs & outreach to meet those needs.
Justice Reform Legislation
Today, Councilmember Charles Allen, Chair of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety introduced the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which includes several measures intended to improve police accountability and transparency. I, along with all other members of the Council, signed on to co-introduce and the bill passed unanimously.
The legislation includes the following: bans chokeholds, releases body-worn camera video within 72 hours after officer-involved fatality and forbids officers from viewing the footage before writing their report, strengthens the Office of Police Complaints’ independence and allows them to pursue investigations that officers witness but do not report, requires additional training for officers on racism and white supremacy, requires MPD to identify themselves as local police during First Amendment demonstrations, and more.
Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Grosso moved several amendments that were incorporated into the legislation. The amendments prohibit the hiring of police officers who have a history of misconduct in other jurisdictions; prohibit matters concerning discipline from being negotiable by police union; prohibit the use of chemical irritants, such as pepper spray and tear gas, as well as the use of “less-lethal” weapons, such as rubber bullets, against First Amendment protestors. Councilmembers Gray and Bonds also moved an amendment that would create a Police Reform Commission to provide deliberate, evidence-based recommendation on police reform measures.
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) testified on their budget before the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety this afternoon. If you want to share your thoughts on MPD's budget for the next fiscal year, the committee is convening a hearing on June 15th for public witnesses to testify. The deadline to sign up is June 11th. Click here for sign-up information.
Ward 1 Annual Public Safety Townhall
I’ll be hosting a telephone townhall on Wednesday, June 17th from 5:00pm - 6:00pm to hear directly from Ward 1 residents on these issues. This year’s public safety townhall will be focused on what residents would like to see in terms of balancing policing and community safety initiatives, with the goal of creating a safer Ward 1 for all. We will also have community partners as guest speakers.
We are still in Phase I of reopening DC. This means some businesses have opened with modified operations, but residents are still encouraged to stay at home, wear masks when out, and practice social distancing as much as possible. We anticipate an update by June 19th from Mayor Bowser and the Department on Health on whether we will be able to move to Phase II. To move to a new phase, we have to meet certain metrics of decreases in community spread, testing capacity, health care system capacity, and contact tracing capacity. The latest update on our progress can be found here.
New Testing Sites
DC Fire and EMS is hosting free walk-up coronavirus testing sites. This week, sites are open 4:00pm – 8:00pm in Ward 1 at Engine 11 (3420 14th Street NW) on Thursday and Engine 4 (2531 Sherman Avenue NW) on Friday. If you’ve joined peaceful protests recently, we are encouraging you to get tested. For more sites, click here.
Meal distribution sites are still open for students. Ward 1 has 4 sites, but you can pick-up at any location. Grocery distribution is open to all residents. Here’s the full list.
If you are in need of unemployment benefits, visit here to apply. This quick guide explains eligibility requirements and what to expect. If you run into any issues, reach out to our office.
For the latest updates, news, and resources, visit coronavirus.dc.gov