Two years ago, the Washington, D.C., Council trimmed the police budget, heeding calls for a smaller force amid demonstrations over social and racial justice, and efforts to shift some duties from law enforcement, such as responding to mental health calls. The reduction forced a hiring freeze, leading to the loss of about 280 officers over 18 months and leaving the department with its lowest staffing levels in two decades. That conversation has been turned on its head by rising numbers of homicides, gun violence and carjackings coupled with slower responses to critical emergency calls and mounting overtime pay, reports the Washington Post. Facing an outcry from frightened residents as she seeks a third term, Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing a budget increase to hire 347 more police officers in fiscal 2023. Factoring in departures through retirements or other attrition, the net gain would be a modest three dozen officers. Bowser’s long-term goal is more ambitious. She wants to expand to 4,000 a department that has shrunk to about 3,500 officers. Police estimate that achieving that goal could take until 2031. Seven of the 13 D.C. Council members said they would likely support Bowser’s call for more police. The mayor’s force-expansion plan costs $30 million and includes new incentive packages and money for recruiting. If enacted, Bowser’s police budget would be a stark reversal in D.C. of the defund policing movement born out of demonstrations that consumed cities around the U.S. after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. “Our ability to deliver services can only be negatively impacted when we’re down hundreds of officers,” Bowser said ahead of an event Monday where she plans to detail her proposed three percent increase in the police department’s half-billion dollar budget.
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