Yesterday, I shared my common-sense blueprint I’m using to guide my legislative, oversight, and budget work as I lead the Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety. My public safety priorities are not about what gets headlines, but about what gets results. Too often our conversations about crime and violence can devolve into finger-pointing and ideological purity tests. This blueprint focuses on realistic, attainable, and effective solutions that will bring about meaningful change to make our communities safer: preventing crime, supporting police and first responders, ensuring accountability, ending cycles of violence, and strengthening government coordination.
This is the blueprint I used to craft the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety budget that I released earlier this week. My budget proposal is focused on these common-sense, results-oriented priorities. I want to particularly highlight my new Safe Commerical Corridors Grants program, the significant investments in victim services and legal aid grants, and comprehensive funding for police recruitment and retention.
The Safe Commerical Corridors Grants will provide funding directly to local leaders in our commercial corridors, like our Business Improvement Districts and Main Streets, to implement proven and innovative public safety solutions. Every community’s needs are different and these local leaders know what works best for their communities. Some possible uses of this funding are increased public safety patrols, improved lighting to deter crime, and enhancements to violence prevention efforts.
I also want to highlight the millions of dollars in funding the Committee restored to victim services and legal aid grants that had been cut in the Mayor’s budget proposal. The restored funding in our budget allows for vital services to be delivered to victims of domestic violence, LGBTQ+ survivors of bias and hate crimes, as well as supports our hospital-based violence intervention programs, which support victims immediately following incidents of violence and interrupt cycles of violence.
Ensuring our police force has the staffing needed to keep our communities safe is a top priority and I want to shine a spotlight on the funding for police recruitment and retention in my Committee budget. This budget protected every dollar Chief Contee asked for to ensure MPD is able to accelerate recruitment and retention of sworn officers, investments that will enable faster responses to crime and increased patrols. The Committee is focused on finding creative avenues to build up the number of officers, including hiring bonuses, housing assistance, hiring civilians to fill certain rolls so more officers can be on patrol, and diversity and wellness initiatives.
I want to conclude by acknowledging yesterday’s news that Chief Contee is retiring from the Metropolitan Police Department after over three decades of service. Chief Contee has been a thoughtful, results-oriented leader and I am incredibly grateful for his years of work to make the District safer for all residents. The Chief and I have engaged in a very productive and collaborative working relationship to improve public safety in our city. I am eager to work with the Mayor to identify a successor who is ready to take on the work of addressing the pressing public safety challenges facing DC and implementing the important investments in MPD in the budget.
Below you can learn more about what my team and I have been doing to address public safety in the last few weeks.
On Monday, the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety released the FY 2024 Committee budget report. You can read the report in its entirety here.
Next, the Committee’s report (as well as reports from all the Committees) will go to the Committee of the Whole, where the whole Council will consider the budget in its entirety.
Chairwoman Pinto has been on the ground, working directly with our public safety partners to address crime and violence in the city.
Chairwoman Pinto met with Moms Demand Action community leaders to discuss budget priorities and addressing gun violence.
Chairwoman Pinto celebrated the incredible work of Legal Aid DC, as well as honoree Attorney General Karl Racine, and the hundreds of tireless advocates and lawyers fighting ensure justice under the law and basic protections for our residents. Chairwoman Pinto’s Committee Budget Report restored millions of dollars to Access to Justice programs to fund civil legal aid services for underserved residents.
Chairwoman Pinto participated in the Georgetown Law Home Court Chairty Basketball Game, a tradition which brings together professors and Members of Congress to support the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Housing security and preventing homelessness is one of the best ways to prevent recidivism for returning citizens.
(Pictured above from left to right, Congressman Don Davis, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Councilmemember Pinto, and Councilmember Robert White)
Chairwoman Pinto met with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington to discuss the impact of crime and violence on the restaurant community and solutions for promoting public safety and supporting local businesses.
Chairwoman Pinto met with neighbors and business owners to discuss our plans for improved public safety and hear other ideas for ways we can think outside the box to improve people’s experiences and outcomes.
Chairwoman Pinto hosted an Earth Day Cleanup with Shaw Main Streets and District Cleanups to bring the community together to clean up the Shaw neighborhood – recognizing that clean spaces are safer spaces.
Chairwoman Pinto attended the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting – a monthly meeting that brings together local and federal public safety agency heads, the District courts, and elected officials to coordinate the government’s public safety solutions and discuss key issues.
(Pictured above from left to right, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Police Chief Robert Contee, and Councilmemember Pinto)
DC News Now: DC public safety budget invests in recruitment, retention programs. “’We have a hiring crisis nationwide, there are pipeline challenges that our police force is having getting back up to a force size we know we need. So we’ve used this budget to try and be creative,’ said Pinto.”
WTOP: Metro CEO: DC’s fare evasion law needs changing. “’Decriminalizing fare evasion is a blunt instrument that has not only hurt Metro’s revenue, but has hampered law enforcement’s ability to keep all of us safe on public transportation,’ Pinto said. ‘I will continue to work with my colleagues to find a common-sense solution that does not needlessly entangle residents in our criminal justice system but also does not tie the hands of Metro and law enforcement.’”
Washington Post Editorial Board: Why police officers need to be in D.C. schools. “Four D.C. Council members introduced a bill last month to reinstate the police department’s School Safety Division, which is where school resource officers work. They are Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8); Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7); Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), the public safety committee chair; and council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D). Mr. White said students often tell him that school safety is their top concern.”
Washington City Paper: Jan. 6ers and Marjorie Taylor Greene Drive Attention to the D.C. Jail. Real Reform Remains Elusive. “’One of my biggest focuses with the jail is around the creation of a new facility that has habitable living conditions,’ Pinto says. ‘That was a major budget priority of mine last year. And so now that the construction of the new facility is planned a couple of years out in our budget, one of my responsibilities this year is to make sure that we have everything in place to plan for that construction and make sure it stays on schedule.’”
Washington Informer: D.C. Council Member Parker Targets Gun Manufacturers in New Legislation. “If passed, Parker’s legislation, titled the Establishment of Reasonable Controls for the Firearm Industry Act, will allow District residents and the D.C. Office of the Attorney General to sue firearm industry members for harm caused by production or sale of guns that cause harm in the District.”
WTOP: Chief Robert Contee leaving DC police for job with FBI. “D.C. council chair of the judiciary and public safety committee, Brooke Pinto, told WTOP she’s grateful for Chief Contee’s more than three decades of service to the District of Columbia. ‘Well it is certainly going to be a huge loss for the Metropolitan Police Department and the District,’ Pinto said. Pinto’s committee voted this week in favor of giving the police department the money it needs to boost hiring. ‘I have funded in the budget all of the positions that Chief Contee believes MPD can hire,’ Pinto said.”
WAMU: D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee To Depart MPD For A New Gig At The FBI. “Reached Wednesday evening, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who chairs the D.C. Council committee that oversees the police department, said she was ‘very grateful for [Contee’s] amazing service to the city.’ ‘His experience in D.C. gave him a very helpful perspective in leading the department, and he was very data-driven and was always steeped in the best research … but also never lost the human component of what crime means for victims, what it means for neighborhoods, and what the police can be doing as a partner in our city as one of the pieces of our public safety toolkit,’ Pinto added. ‘And I always just appreciated his approach to very complicated issues.’”