Nadeau Pens Bill to Help Police Solve More Homicides
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A second bill would make 911 dispatch more reliable and effective
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, Ward 1, unveiled two public safety bills Tuesday. One would help police solve more homicide cases by boosting reward amounts for information leading to arrests and providing witnesses with protection, relocation, and assistance. The other would transfer fire and emergency medical 911 calls to Fire and Emergency Medical Services staff, improving speed and effectiveness of emergency calls and freeing up 911 dispatch center staff to focus on directing police to crime scenes where they’re urgently needed, and doing so faster.
The Case Closure and Witness Support Amendment Act of 2023 would increase rewards for witnesses who provide information leading to homicide arrests and others who cooperate with investigations to at least $50,000 and would offer them protection, relocation, and other supportive services. The current practice is to give rewards of $25,000 or less.
The D.C. homicide closure rate for 2023 stands at only 45 percent, compared to a national average of 50 to 60 percent. These provisions will encourage more witnesses to come forward with information that will result in arrests and close more cases.
“Information provided by witnesses is highly valuable to law enforcement as they work to solve homicide cases and comes at great risk to those who provide it,” Nadeau said. “Closing cases is critical to breaking the cycle of violence and provides closure to families and communities.
The legislation would provide witnesses, as needed, with law enforcement protection, physical relocation of residence, housing expenses and utilities, basic living expenses, childcare, documents to establish a new identity, transportation, storage of personal possessions, and support to facilitate a safe transition.
While these services already exist in some capacity, there has never been a cohesive strategy or program formally established in the D.C. Code or regulations, which sets the District apart from other states such as California and Illinois. This also makes it difficult to know if these services are being adequately resourced.
The bill would also require the Comprehensive Homicide Elimination Strategy Task Force to report to the Council on the extent and effectiveness of the District’s programs and policies for witness protection and assistance.
So far, Councilmember Christina Henderson has said she will co-sponsor the bill.
Nadeau also unveiled the Reliable and Effective 911 Dispatch Amendment Act of 2023, which would ensure faster and more accurate 911 dispatch by transferring fire and emergency medical calls to dedicated triage lines staffed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. In addition to improving emergency response, the protocol would also allow 911 dispatchers to focus on police calls, making for more effective and faster dispatch in response to those calls, too.
This bill would re-establish and make permanent a pilot that the Office of Unified Communications and FEMS undertook in 2019 that proved effective at more accurately triaging calls.
“When a person calls 911 – whether that’s for a medical emergency, fire or crime -- they need to know that their call will be answered, that the dispatcher understands what’s going on, and that they will receive help quickly,” Nadeau said. “This is one of the most critical things District government must get right to improve public safety.
Councilmembers Trayon White, Sr., Janeese Lewis George, and Zachary Parker have signed onto this legislation so far.
Both bills will be formally introduced Friday, after all councilmembers have had a chance to sign on as co-introducers. Read the text of both bills.
Nadeau released the bills this morning in advance of her planned Ward 1 town hall with MPD Police Chief Pamela Smith. The event is an opportunity to hear from the Chief and ask her questions. It will take place at the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, 815 Florida Ave., NW, from 6:30-8 p.m. and online. For more information, see brianneknadeau.com/ward1-chief-town-hall.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Nadeau said. “We all need to work together – the Mayor, Council, MPD, and members of the community – to make the tools we already have work better for residents of the District. Both bills give first responders critical information more quickly and give them the needed capacity to perform the most critical parts of their jobs.”
Text of the two bills.