Refund from police budget to DC residents
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More than 100 faith leaders representing congregations, synagogues and parachurch organizations from all across Washington, DC have joined us in full support of divesting 20% of the Metropolitan Police Department budget and reinvesting it in a peace and public safety agenda for DC residents. Please read below about how we want the city to reallocate those funds and sign this petition developed by our strategic partners at Peace Walks DC. We will forward this petition to the Mayor and the City Council of Washington, DC.
The money that is in the police budget belongs to the people and what we need now is a refund so that the community can reprioritize and reinvest it in a vision that works toward real healing and freedom. If it is true that budgets are moral documents, then for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to see a proposed $18 million increase to its $554 million budget during a COVID-19 pandemic while funds for seniors, violence prevention & intervention, and nutrition are cut is fundamentally immoral. We want to see no less than 20% of the MPD budget ($110 million) in this current budget cycle be refunded to the people and reinvested in other key public safety and public health priorities.
Deep listening to both rank and file officers, as well as top brass in the city reflects over and over again that by being asked to be social workers, therapists, orderlies, youth development workers and more, the police department is operating outside of its primary function in society. We want to see a city in which the police are not called for noise complaints, mental health crises, domestic violence disputes, school behavior issues, or to police our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. We want to see a city where neighbors look after each other and where congregations and communities work together to provide for each other and keep each other safe.
Part of what needs to be reimagined is local control over investigating allegations of police misconduct. Much as has been seen with the Sheriff’s Department in LA County and in the city of Oakland, CA, A Public Safety Oversight Commission should be established in Washington, D.C. with community advocates and concerned citizens given subpoena power to conduct investigations and hearings concerning allegations of police misconduct. The commission should not be composed of current or retired law enforcement, but instead community and civic leaders who are most impacted by policing. Police community advisory boards and PSA’s must have actual teeth in our community and oversight power as well.
Cities across America are finding ways to fundamentally reinvest money previously allocated toward policing into violence prevention and intervention efforts (mental health services, quality health care, low-income and affordable housing, educational resources, restorative justice, etc.) There are a multitude of ways to attend to the healing and wholeness of historically marginalized people. A $110 million refund of the people’s money should be reinvested in violence prevention and intervention in the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, in The CURE Violence Interruption program run by the Office of the Attorney General, in the Roving Leaders Program at the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Credible Messenger program at the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services.
In addition to violence prevention and intervention, we want to see an investment in community led rapid response teams trained to deal with domestic violence and mental health crises, as well as peace teams to deal with basic neighborhood disputes. These rapid response teams have been piloted in cities like Los Angeles with peers, mental health practitioners, nurses and social workers deployed on calls to provide an interdisciplinary response to trauma and community conflict.
We also support and endorse the following proposals that were made to Deputy Mayor Donahue in March of this year by Peace Walks DC, a coalition of over 40 congregations, gun violence survivors and community organizers who in the Spring, Summer and Fall of 2019 engaged in 7 months of facilitated trainings, peace walks, intentional engagement and deep listening in communities most impacted by gun violence, primarily in Ward 7:
● Mental Health Support Through Partners: We want to see the city partner with clergy members to provide mental health support to residents during the time they are on wait lists to receive long term services from a mental health provider. We recommend the city fund mental health first aid training and other required training for coalition members and other faith leaders. Such an investment would increase access to community based, affordable counseling, where the participants live and at the time they need it. We recommend the effort begin in the following neighborhoods: Rosedale, Park Morton, Garfield Terrace, Clay Terrace, Benning Park, Benning Terrace, Marshall Heights, Lincoln Heights, Wellington Park, 37th, Woodland Terrace, Stoddard Terrace, Washington Highlands, Anacostia, and Congress Heights.
● Safe Passage: We want to see the city continue to invest in Safe Passage in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 led by and for local residents in partnerships with schools. We recommend the city provide stipends for stay at home moms, seniors and community allies who are already informally providing safe passage in our communities but need support.
● Rapid Response: In addition to first responders, there is an important need for faith leaders to be part of a rapid response team that can provide a peaceful presence to families in the wake of a homicide. Clergy are uniquely equipped to provide comfort to families in their moment of need and to connect the community with essential resources that can prevent retaliation and further bloodshed. As a means to increase the capacity of first responders and to reduce gun violence the city should invest in training for clergy to also serve on rapid response teams to provide a ministry of presence to families experiencing trauma.
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