WASHINGTON - Law enforcement in cities nationwide are facing unprecedented levels of criticism in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.
In recent weeks, calls to defund the police have reached the nation’s capital – and they’ve reached the ears of the D.C. council, who are calling for millions in cuts to the department’s budget.
On Thursday morning, D.C. Police Chief Pete Newsham countered that the need for police has never been greater.
The shooting death of 11-year-old Davon McNeal during a community cookout last week served as a troubling reminder of gun violence in the District – and that was just one of a number of shooting incidents that have kept police busy.
According to Newsham, D.C. police have responded to 148 shootings, and 31 murders since the death of George Floyd.
“If we talk about emergencies in our city, I would say that the level of gun violence that we’re seeing in Washington, D.C. is very, very troubling,” the chief said.
Mayor Muriel Bower says she is opposed to defunding the police, despite the council’s moves.
“The mayor has been very thoughtful in funding a number of different groups to assist with public safety in the District of Columbia. One of those groups that I think most reasonable people realize is the police department,” Newsham said.
The chief said, however, that the police department’s funding has increased “at a much slower rate than a lot of other groups that provide services.”
Newsham says he agrees with some of the calls for police reform.
“It’s something that we applaud. It’s something that we have been a part of for the better part of the past 20 years,” he said.
But the chief does not believe that slashing the police department’s budget or personnel will help prompt more reforms.
“I would call for an increase in the police department. The folks over at the council disagree,” the chief said.