Washington, DC – The DC City Council passed an emergency bill on Tuesday to force the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to justify its overtime spending to them after every two pay periods.
The city council pushed the emergency legislation through on Nov. 17 in response to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision in October to redirect $43 million from the city budget to cover police overtime due to rioting and protests in the city, WTOP reported.
The city councilmembers overrode objections from Bowser and DC Metro Police Chief Peter Newsham in June when they voted to defund the police department by $15 million.
“I express my disapproval to the idea that MPD’s reckless overspending and over-policing of our communities should be prioritized above health and human services programs,” DC City Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said of the fund reallocation earlier in November, according to The Washington Post.
Nadeau alleged that officers had intimidated citizens “for exercising their First Amendment rights,” and said the reallocation was “outrageous” and added “insult to injury.”
She, along with DC City Councilmembers Robert White and Charles Allen, spearheaded the emergency bill, which passed unanimously on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.
“We are not even telling them they can’t spend the money,” Nadeau claimed about the increased oversight. “We are just saying we need to see what you’re spending.”
Bowser blasted the proposal ahead of the vote and issued a letter to the councilmembers urging them to withdraw the measure, The Washington Post reported.
“We do not have the luxury of simply declaring that we will not work to keep our residents, visitors, and businesses safe, that we will not facilitate peaceful First Amendment assemblies and demonstrations, or that we will not support presidential movements when they occur,” the mayor wrote.
“While there is clearly value, for some, in expressions of performative acts of resistance, those who provide essential public services do not have the ability to engage in such actions,” she insisted.
The city council didn’t even acknowledge Bowser’s concerns during Tuesday’s meeting, The Washington Post reported.
Chief Newsham said the department is already struggling to keep up due to daily protests and increasing violence, according to WTOP.
Bowser previously noted that cutting back the size of the department would only increase overtime costs for the remaining officers left trying to fill the gaps.
“I can say as the chief of police, I am not comfortable right now with all the responsibilities we have here in Washington, D.C.,” Chief Newsham said.
The emergency bill will remain in effect for 90 days unless Bowser vetoes it sooner, WTOP reported.
The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety voted on June 25 to approve a $15 million cut to the police department’s budget, WUSA reported.
The money is supposed to be repurposed for different, non-law enforcement public safety efforts.
The council voted to create a new Gun Violence director position to coordinate the city’s interagency strategy for preventing gun violence, WUSA reported.
Some of the money taken away from the police department will supplement funding for the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) and the rest will go to social welfare programs.
Groups protesting the DC police complained that the reforms and budget cuts discussed in June didn’t go far enough and demanded further steps be taken.
The budget the public safety committee approved in June was $33 million less than what the police department currently has to work with, WUSA reported.
The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety voted at the same time to limit the term of a DC police chief to 4 years.
The members of the committee said the chief’s position carried too much power and the top cop should have be evaluated and re-nominated by the mayor four years into their job if there was a consideration to continue the department under their leadership, WUSA reported.
That means that when Chief Newsham hits the four-year mark in May of 2021, he’ll need the support of Bowser to continue doing his job.