District Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and the D.C. Council are unlikely to settle on regulations governing the use of police body cameras and their video footage before the council votes to allocate $5.1 million for the program as part of Bowser’s $12.9 billion budget.
Responding to reporters’ questions Friday, a day after a contentious council hearing on the issue, Bowser (D) said her administration and council members would probably propose regulations for the program, which would outfit all 2,800 patrol officers with body cameras.
But, Bowser said, “I don’t think that either of us are ready to do it by the time” a vote on the budget is taken. She added that she will urge legislators to accept the body-camera plan as part of the fiscal 2016 budget with “the caveat” that terms of the program would need to be determined after the fact.
On Thursday, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier met fierce opposition from the city’s Board of Ethics and Accountability and some council members when she proposed that body-camera video be treated like police evidence and released to the public only in limited circumstances.
Advocates of open government say that making such footage widely available is the best way to hold police accountable. But Lanier said that redacting sensitive material to avoid violating the rights of private citizens who are recorded would lead to “potentially staggering” costs and still not ensure the privacy of those seen on the video.
“I think we heard a very robust discussion from a number of stakeholder groups yesterday, so I don’t know what the final set of recommendations will be,” Bowser told reporters. “It may be something entirely different from what was discussed at the hearing yesterday.”
During the news conference, Bowser’s first open session with reporters since taking office in January, she announced appointments to four key administration positions, including directors for the Office of Contracting and Procurement and the Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Bowser tapped George Shutter, a former chief financial officer at the international nonprofit group TechnoServe and a former overseas executive at the tax firm Grant Thornton, to head the Office of Contracting and Procurement.
Melinda Bolling, who has served as interim director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, will become the agency’s permanent director.
Raymond Davidson will become the director of the Child and Family Services Administration, and Alexis Taylor becomes the director of the Office of Disability Rights.
Bowser also stands to consolidate her power base on the council in the coming week, with the likely addition of two former staffers to fill the council’s vacant Wards 4 and 8 seats.
The D.C. Board of Elections on Friday announced the unofficial final tally in the close Ward 8 race after counting provisional and absentee ballots. LaRuby May (D), a Bowser ally, appears to have won by 80 votes.
Bowser is close to May as well as Brandon Todd (D), who won the Ward 4 seat.
But she dodged a question Friday about what she’ll be able to accomplish with two new allies on the council.
“I think that whoever the next Ward 4 or Ward 8 council members may be, my job as mayor is to work with them to make sure that the vision that their constituents have for them is realized,” Bowser said. “So, I’m going to work with the Ward 4 and Ward 8 council members, period.”
Bowser ducked queries about her plans to lure the Washington Redskins football team back to a stadium in Washington as well as a question about how often she plans to field questions from reporters.
When she was a council member serving Ward 4, Bowser signed a resolution calling on the team to change its name, and on Friday, she reiterated that the name is “offensive to many people.” But she declined to say whether a name change would be a condition to getting the team back and whether the city had made any headway in its efforts to promote a D.C. stadium.
“We’ve reached out to the team,” she said. “I think having a discussion about the team returning to Washington is the first thing that I want to do.”