DC's City Council Slashed Police Funding. Now, Its Members Want More Cops as Shootings Plague City.

Nation's capital saw 13 homicides in first five days of August

Washington, D.C., police respond to a shooting (Getty Images)
August 9, 2023

Washington, D.C.'s city council in the summer of 2020 voted to slash millions from the police budget. Now, as homicides surge in the nation's capital, liberal council members want more cops.

After D.C. saw 13 homicides in just the first five days of August, left-wing council members Brianne Nadeau and Phil Mendelson touted their efforts to secure more resources for police, with Nadeau especially stressing the city's "hot spots." Those efforts mark a stark turnaround for the council members, both of whom voted to cut $15 million from the city's police budget at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. Nadeau at the time endorsed "calls to defund MPD" and "get police out of schools," while Mendelson praised a 2021 police reform report that lamented D.C.'s "harmful over-reliance on policing and incarceration" and called for a "realignment and reduction of MPD's size, responsibilities, and budget."

Nadeau and Mendelson's sudden support for additional policing reflects the political toxicity of the "defund the police" movement, which swept liberal cities following George Floyd's death but has since prompted backlash. City officials in New York and Los Angeles, for example, cut funding for police in 2020 only to restore law enforcement budgets a year later, citing spikes in violent crime.

D.C. Police Union chairman Gregg Pemberton said the council's "flip-flop" reflects an effort to avoid blame "regarding exponential increases in violent crime."

"Councilmember Nadeau should be ashamed of herself for what she has done to the MPD during her tenure," Pemberton told the Washington Free Beacon. "If councilmember Nadeau actually cares about public safety, as she stated in her press release, she should move to repeal the two dozen [policies] … that have decimated the MPD over the past three years."

Neither Nadeau nor Mendelson returned requests for comment.

Beyond the council's embrace of the movement to defund police in 2020, D.C. lawmakers last year passed the controversial Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Act, which would make it easier to fire police officers. A bipartisan congressional group attempted to repeal the act, but President Joe Biden blocked the effort with a veto. Even D.C.'s liberal mayor, Muriel Bowser, condemned portions of the bill that would subject on-duty police officers to more government scrutiny, saying the city should not have "unfettered access" to all police records.

In addition to Nadeau and Mendelson, another D.C. city council member voted in favor of measures that would slash funding from city cops only to express support for "first responders" amid the ongoing crime wave. That member, Brooke Pinto, last month boasted of her work to ensure "police have the tools they need to keep communities safe." Pinto, who did not return a request for comment, in 2020 bemoaned D.C.'s "over reliance on policing," which she said "continues to burden" city residents and "does not help us to resolve our most pressing issues."