Emergency public safety bill passed by DC Council to address citywide crime crisis

The D.C. Council voted by majority Tuesday to approve Councilmember Brooke Pinto's emergency public safety bill, the Prioritizing Public Safety Amendment Act, in an effort to address the crime wave crippling the city. 

All but D.C. Councilmember Janeese Lewis George voted to approve Pinto’s emergency public safety bill with amendments. Councilmember Lewis George’s measure to get rid of the adult pre-trial measure got voted down. Lewis George argued changing a legal standard on emergencies is reckless.

"We cannot make the same mistake here," Lewis George said during the meeting. "This is the portion of the bill that I think is so critical, and this is how mass incarceration happens, bit by bit."

Lewis George said she’s also been a victim of D.C. crime and knows the importance of addressing it but is concerned, as a lawyer, that the adult pre-trial measure casts too large of a net for adults. 

Councilmember Pinto argued that the nearly 20% homicide rate today calls for the proposed emergency measures and that it’s very hard to hold someone pre-trial. She clarified what her pre-trial proposal does is make it so that a crime of violence does not have to be a crime of violence while armed for a judge to be able to hold an adult before trial. Other measures in the emergency bill include making shooting a gun in public a felony, it makes misdemeanors extraditable, and all changes Pinto argues – would help close cases in D.C.

"Today our government leaders came together to take immediate action to pass my legislation, addressing our public safety emergency and taking tangible steps to make our city safer this summer," said Councilmember Pinto in a statement. "I am proud of the robust support my legislation received and am grateful to Mayor Bowser for her partnership in developing and putting forward this common-sense legislation. Today’s vote sends a clear message that the current state of crime and violence cannot be tolerated and that our government is working together to make DC residents safer. We must continue to build on the legislation we passed today to better invest in preventative tools and interrupt cycles of violence. However, this legislation is a major step forward in our efforts to create a safer D.C. for all our residents."  

"The legislation that the council passed today will fill gaps in our criminal justice system and, in doing so, will increase accountability for violent and criminal behavior and build a #SaferStrongerDC,"  Mayor Bowser tweeted after the vote. 

The emergency measures and others passed Tuesday will now be in effect for 90 days, but the council says they’re planning to take up a more permanent public safety bill when they return in September. 

Some council members and D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb say the city will also need to address the root causes of this violence.

In addition to the Prioritizing Public Safety Act, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau’s bill passed, requiring the Office of the Inspector General to hire a 3rd party to look into the sexual harassment findings of former Deputy Mayor John Falciccho. 

The council also passed a measure that would require the Office of Unified Communication, D.C.’s 911 call center, to publish call response data, and a bill was unanimously passed allowing police pursuits if a chase is immediately necessary.