Mayor to Citizens: ‘Policing at Critical Point’
By May 17, 2021 0 356•
“I believe that we are at a critical point in policing,” Mayor Muriel Bowser told the Citizens Association of Georgetown at its May 11 virtual annual meeting. “As you know, the new D.C. Council this year voted to defund the Metropolitan Police force. They voted to stop all new hiring for the next five years. Due to retirements and resignations, even during a normal year, we tend to lose 300 or so police officers a year. The force can go down pretty quickly going a year without hiring.”
Providing a mostly Q-and-A interview for almost an hour, the mayor covered post-pandemic commercial development in Georgetown — streateries and such. Still, the issue that seemed to be top on Bowser’s mind and one of CAG’s major areas of focus: public safety and law enforcement.
“The police need what they need and we need to support that,” the mayor said. “Street crime, robberies and burglaries are increasing in Georgetown and elsewhere. That needs police. I need to make sure the council knows we have enough police without having to decrease service: fewer hours on different needs, working overtime with fewer personnel, doing fewer things. If the newly confirmed police chief Robert Contee, says we need to increase the numbers, then that is what we’ll need to do.”
But the mayor pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to protect the public gave her administration “a great opportunity to really assess how we use public space…. We did a quick pivot to balance our concerns for public safety and protection with the need for people to get outside — walking, dining, shopping, exercising, and enjoying each other…. Streateries and expanded sidewalks in Georgetown have had wonderful feedback,” the mayor said. As for parking, “We have good amounts of parking that are not used in commercial lots that could be available around 7 p.m.”
But issues of public safety came up in almost every Georgetown topic the mayor was asked about. Paving over some of Georgetown’s brick sidewalks with a flexible porous pavement, for instance. At first, the Mayor thought the project had been put on hold, but she was advised during the interview that the project had started and would proceed over the next weeks. “It is a safety issue. We didn’t set out to make people unhappy,” the mayor said. “But we can’t have people tripping over loose bricks.” She asked if the Old Georgetown Board had an alternative. It was something CAG might look into.
Similarly, residents expressed concerns over safety stemming from the problem of homelessness in the area. It’s a matter “full of very delicate legal issues,” Bowser said. “We need to be sure our law enforcement officers and others are well trained to deal with getting people the help they need and with the hygiene and public health issues involved as well.”
“We must stay focused on what we need as a city on law enforcement and non-law enforcement concerns to keep people safe,” Bowser finished. “We need police to be well staffed. Keep that in mind as we head into budget season the next few weeks. My global issue is about making sure we have enough police.”