WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington, DC’s mayor and city council are embroiled in a public debate over how to respond to rising crime rates and mounting public tensions over gun violence in the capital.
The DC Council voted 12-1 on Tuesday, overriding Mayor Muriel Kuppa’s veto to substantially rewrite the city’s criminal code. Bowser said he vetoed the bill earlier this month and opposed several provisions, including lowering the maximum sentence for burglary, carjacking, burglary and other crimes.
“I think whenever there is a policy that reduces penalties, it sends the wrong message,” she said.
Bowser also expressed concern that provisions expanding defendants’ rights to jury trials for misdemeanors would overwhelm the local court system.
Aldermen, who originally unanimously approved the rewrite, expressed dissatisfaction with Bowser’s opinion, arguing that her objections were insignificant and that her team would be more fully involved in the multi-year process of rewriting the Penal Code. He said he could have dealt with it sooner if he had.
1st District Council member Brianne Nadeau dismissed Bowser’s veto as “political drama”. She implied that she was meant to project a public image as a law and order executive because she knew her veto would be overturned.
DC’s homicides have increased for the fourth year in a row, with 227 homicides in 2021, the highest since 2003.
Crime and public safety dominated last year’s mayoral election, with Bowser fending off two city council members to win a third term. Both her challengers, her Robert White and her Trayon White, accused Bowser of mishandling her public safety matters.
Bowser is seen by Black Lives Matter and other activist groups as a staunch defender of the Metropolitan Police Department, and in the past she has clashed with the DC Council over her claims to hire more police officers.
The new Criminal Code will come into force in October 2025. But first we have to overcome the last obstacle. The newly Republican-dominated House of Representatives is waiting for an opportunity to intervene that many DC politicians fear.
All laws approved by the DC Council must go through a 60-day review period during which the House of Representatives can change or void them altogether. Republicans have said they want more active involvement in DC legislation if Republicans take control of the House in November’s midterm elections.