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DC Police Union Urges Budget Approval as Protesters Call for Defunding

"The idea that our department is systemically racist in a way that manifests itself in brutality and civil rights violations is preposterous"

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While protesters in D.C. are calling on city leaders to defund the police department, the police union is urging those leaders to approve its budget for the coming year.

Dozens of residents spoke during the D.C. Council's budget hearing for the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday, demanding the council defund the department.

Hundreds more peacefully protested at Freedom Plaza and said they intend to camp there overnight in their call for defunding police.

They say they want the city to instead invest in housing, health care, education, social services and public transportation.

"I think that the more money that's put into police is the more money being put into the problem and the money that we need to put into is the solution," protester Allegra Massaro said.

In a statement, the D.C. Police Union disputed suggestions some residents made during the hearing that communities want fewer police in their neighborhoods.

"The MPD takes over 230,000 police reports every year. Behind each of these reports is a citizen who has been victimized or someone who needed police assistance. This is nearly 650 times a day that a citizen needs a police officer," the union said.

"A video recently surfaced of a violent gun battle in Northeast DC with at least a half dozen suspects discharging firearms, to include a high-powered rifle, on a residential street. The citizens who live and work in these neighborhoods do not want fewer police."

The D.C. Council approved emergency legislation earlier in the month to limit use of force by police, release body camera footage more quickly and limit the role of the police union in the police disciplinary process.

The council voted to prohibit D.C. police from using tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets or stun grenades to disperse a crowd.

Former ANC Commissioner and community activist Kathy Henderson said defunding the police could cause a spike in violent crime.

"We rely on the police to protect us," Henderson said.

The police union urged the council to approve MPD's budget and said that "the idea that our department is systemically racist in a way that manifests itself in brutality and civil rights violations is preposterous. The MPD has been at the forefront of police reform for 20 years. Problems that exist in other cities do not exist here."

The council is expected to vote on the issue in July.

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