The number of campus officers in Washington, D.C., schools will keep dropping over the next few years after the city council rejected Mayor Muriel Bowser’s bid to restore the police presence in public schools throughout the district.
Councilmembers opted to continue phasing out police in an 8-5 vote Tuesday, maintaining the plan to reach zero officers in public schools by 2025. Bowser sought to reverse course through her annual budget proposal, marking another public safety push as the incumbent seeks reelection in the mayoral primary next month — particularly as a rise in crime in the district has prompted growing fears.
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The D.C. Council initially voted to remove officers from school in a summer 2021 vote — one year after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and as several communities nationwide grappled with how to approach policing moving forward. Councilmembers cited a report from the D.C. Police Reform Commission that recommended replacing officers with social workers and mental health professionals.
Those who voted in favor of recommitting to the police-in-schools program noted that an increase in police presence could help teachers feel safer, pointing to a letter from district principals who have reported concerns from their staff that some teenagers are more likely to act violently without police intervention.
“I’m concerned as the violence escalates ... if we don’t have the right people inside [schools] to deescalate violence, to the point that there’s a stabbing or a shooting,” said Councilmember Trayon White, who is also running for mayor. “I’m having second thoughts about where we are as a city when it comes to public safety.”
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Opponents, such as Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, argued police inside school buildings could make students uncomfortable and that schools should not be “a place where they feel policed by armed officers.”
The decision Tuesday was the first of two votes the council will make on the annual budget before sending it back to Bowser for her final approval, after which it is subject to a passive 30-day congressional review.