GLAA urges full funding for Office of Citizen Complaint Review
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GLAA on Public Safety

GLAA urges full funding for Office of Citizen Complaint Review

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013-5265

February 2, 2001


Mayor Anthony Williams
The District of Columbia
441 4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

by messenger
Re: FY 2002 Funding for the Office of Citizen Complaint Review

Dear Mayor Williams:

We urge you to restore full funding to the Office of Citizen Complaint Review (OCCR), which is threatened with a budget cut of almost 46 percent by your Office of Budget and Planning (OBP). Such a cut would be extremely short-sighted and counterproductive.

OBP reportedly has recommended that OCCR be funded at $734,893 for FY 2002, a 45.8 percent reduction in that agency's budget compared with FY 2001. This recommendation appears to have been made without regard for what is required to operate the Office of Citizen Complaint Review. OBP has disregarded the requirements of the statute and funding information from other jurisdictions that have successfully operated similar systems of citizen review of complaints of police misconduct. OBP has also disregarded the fact that when Congress provided start-up funds (through the intercession of Councilmember Catania), it was made clear that they were one-time funds which the District would have to make up itself in subsequent years.

It is important that the District, having just demonstrated sufficient years of fiscal responsibility to get out from under the Control Board, not begin its next budgetary process by demonstrating to Congress that we balance our budgets by underfunding agencies, which will create backlogs and delay citizens' access to justice, particularly an agency Congress was concerned enough to provide with start-up funds.

The past history of citizen review in the District shows us that it will fail if the OCCR cannot keep up with its case load. The District will ultimately have to spend much more in civil liability damages without an effective system of citizen review. (On a similar subject, you announced just a few weeks ago that the Office of Human Rights, another underfunded agency, recorded a record level of settlements in discrimination cases in the year 2000.) It makes no sense to cut an already small agency nearly in half before we know what its case load will be - before giving it a chance to do its job.

The proposed underfunding of OCCR threatens to sabotage a much-needed organization that has only just gotten on its feet. It would undo cooperative efforts over several years by groups like GLAA, NAACP, and ACLU along with your office, the DC Council, and the Metropolitan Police Department to get the Citizen Complaint Review Board and the OCCR into place. Please join us in defending this small but important investment to improve the oversight and accountability of our police.

We are eager to meet with you to discuss this matter at your earliest convenience.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Bob Summersgill
President

cc: Councilmember Kathleen Patterson, Chair, Committee on the Judiciary
Councilmember David Catania
John Koskinen, City Administrator/Deputy Mayor
Margaret Kellems, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety
Philip Pannell, Special Assistant to the Mayor
Philip Eure, Executive Director, Office of Citizen Complaint Review


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