This recall is focused on misleading people who are rightly concerned about crime. In 2023, DC was an outlier from most of the nation on violent crime after we had seen nearly every category of crime drop in 2022. Crime was still much too high, but we were moving in the right direction. But in 2023, while many cities saw a decrease, our neighborhoods endured a serious and alarming increase, including in Ward 6. That’s not acceptable, and we cannot and do not treat it as normal. But the challenges, the reasons, and the solutions are complex. Don’t be misled by simplistic attacks that crime spiked because of one councilmember.

Recall organizers are cynically exploiting the very real fear and pain that comes from crime to muddy the waters on what Charles Allen, one of 13 Councilmembers, has done. They place blame for the local crime spike on commonsense and long-overdue reforms we’ve seen cities and states adopt  across the country. These tactics are straight out of a disingenuous national campaign playbook designed to sow confusion. Reforms to prevent police misconduct – such as banning chokeholds and publishing information about officers who commit domestic violence and sexual assault – are unrelated to why crime spiked in 2023 while it went down elsewhere.

Here are the facts on the most common, misleading attacks. If you want to dive deeper on any issue, follow the “click here” link or scroll to the bottom.

Fiction: Charles Allen and the DC Council “defunded” MPD.

Fact: Charles Allen led the Council to approve more than $500 million dollars every year to support DC police hiring and MPD’s needs. The Council has approved MPD’s full hiring budget request in the past three budgets, despite millions left on the table at the end of each year. Chiefs have publicly acknowledged these persistent hiring challenges and difficulty spending the agency’s entire budget. Click here to learn more.

Fiction: Charles Allen lowered criminal penalties and made it harder to hold people accountable.

Fact: No criminal penalties were lowered while Councilmember Allen was the Chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, nor did the Council limit judges’ discretion to detain someone they deem dangerous. In fact, Charles led the Council to pass several laws strengthening gun and sex offense penalties, including for extended magazines and by repealing the statutes of limitations for the most serious sex crimes.

Fiction: Police accountability and transparency reforms passed unanimously by the Council have driven hundreds of officers from the force.

Fact: While MPD is down officers, our challenges unfortunately mirror a national hiring shortage and are not recent. Dating back to 2014, MPD’s own data shows more officers actually voluntarily left or retired in 2015 and 2016, which outpaced departures in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. What has changed is the inability of hiring to keep pace with departures, reflecting national trends. There is no evidence that the passage of commonsense and widely-supported reforms like banning the use of police chokeholds and creating transparency when officers commit serious crimes like domestic violence has resulted in an inability to hire more officers than those who resign or move to another agency. Click here to learn more.

Fiction: The police reform law ties officers’ hands.

Fact: The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Act of 2020 built off of best practices in policing and codified some of MPD’s existing General Orders to put in place commonsense reforms that would help the Department earn trust in the communities they serve, discipline officers who break that trust, and improve outcomes from arrest to prosecution to conviction. It largely falls in line with the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Click here to learn more.

Fiction: Charles Allen’s criminal code reform effort led to an increase in crime.

Fact: The Revised Criminal Code Act – developed over 15 years and introduced at the Council by an independent government commission including local and federal prosecutors and criminal law experts, not Charles Allen – was blocked by Congress after passing the Council three times. It never went into effect, leaving us with our current dysfunctional and unchanged criminal code. The proposed reform included many new criminal offenses and stronger penalties, but ultimately, as it was not passed, it did not make changes to the law or impact the very real crime challenges we face today. Click here to learn more.

Fiction: The Youth Rehabilitation Act (“YRA”) has opened the jailhouse doors and let out violent offenders.

Fact: The YRA is a law passed in 1985 that allows judges to consider the individual circumstances of young people who come before them. Whether to apply it in a case is the decision of an independent judge based on a hearing and by evaluating many factors in the law. After the YRA’s failures were exposed in 2017, Councilmember Allen commissioned an independent analysis of the law and brought together prosecutors, juvenile justice experts, and community members to propose reforms. This led to a unanimously-supported, compromise reform bill, which narrowed the ability of young people arrested for the most serious crimes to be considered, while aligning eligibility with other city programs for young adults. All told, the YRA is only used in fewer than 3% of all adult crimes. Click here to learn more.

Get informed with longer answers below!

Fiction: Charles Allen and the DC Council "defunded" MPD.

False. In the past four budgets, the Council has approved budgets for MPD of more than $500 million annually (or $2 billion total). The proponents are likely referring to the unanimous approval by the Council of a reduction to MPD’s budget four years ago to fill cuts to the District’s victims’ services agency – a one-time cut of $9.6 million for operations and $4 million for capital planning.

Recall proponents also point to one tweet from Charles as evidence that he “defunded” MPD. It’s important to have context here. In 2020, District residents overwhelmingly called for public safety responses broadened beyond just policing. More than 5,000 residents submitted testimony to the Council in support. The redirection in funds did not lay off officers. It came at a time when the District anticipated a staggering $600 million in cuts due to the pandemic — in fact, the Mayor reduced MPD’s budget by $44 million that year before the proposed budget even came to the Council. Charles redirected a small amount of funding to restore devastating cuts proposed for victims’ services — that’s funding for professionals who offer counseling, therapy, and legal representation, and to fund a new domestic violence shelter and violence prevention programs, a move with clear support from the public to put more dollars into expanding the District’s response to crime.

Fiction: MPD is down hundreds of officers due to Charles Allen’s policies.

False. While MPD is down officers, it’s clearly part of a national hiring shortage affecting police departments nationwide — one the Police Executive Research Forum published an extensive report on last August. Last year, Boston’s Chief reported being down roughly 400 officers, with a force about half the size of ours. Notably, Boston also saw a reduction in homicides and shootings. Dallas, Texas is also struggling to hire.

Dating back to 2014, MPD’s own data shows more officers voluntarily left or retired in FY15 and FY16, which outpaced voluntary departures in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. While there has been a slight uptick in officers resigning since 2020, retirements are down. There hasn’t been a spike – it’s actually been mostly level. Hiring has simply not kept up.

Charles has a track record of supporting MPD hiring. When he first became Chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, he worked closely with MPD to navigate a different staffing crisis — a retirement bubble. He worked with MPD to create a law to keep senior officers on the force even when they were eligible to retire. He also approved funding to expand the cadet program from 15 to 150 cadets per year; these are young DC residents who earn college credits while working for MPD. During his time leading the Committee, he consistently focused on both strengthening MPD and improving community trust in police.

Hiring is tough. So what are we doing about it?

A big challenge our police face is hiring, and most people agree we need to have a force size that’s capable of responding to calls for service requiring officers. That’s why two years ago, Charles Allen worked with then-MPD Chief Contee to fund the region’s first and most generous hiring bonus for new officers, now at $25,000. Hiring is a challenge for nearly every police department nationwide. The Council has approved every budget sent from the Mayor for officer hiring requested by MPD in three years, without any reductions.

Pre-pandemic, Charles recognized the need to improve our hiring package and approved recruitment and retention tools such as offering tuition incentives and housing assistance.

He also has grown MPD’s cadet program from 15 to 150 new cadets annually, creating a pipeline for DC residents to join MPD and serve the communities they know best. He also passed legislation to raise the age of the program to include young adults.

Fiction: The Council’s police reform bill ties officers hands

False. The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2020 was passed unanimously by the Council, approved by the Mayor, and backed by President Biden. It largely falls in line with the federal George Floyd policing legislation – something the group of Hill staffers and lobbyists pushing this recall should know, as many of their bosses voted for that bill.

Every MPD Chief has wanted the ability to get rid of bad officers who were instead reinstated with full pay – that includes officers who have robbed others, driven drunk, and even committed sexual assault on the job. A lengthy and opaque disciplinary process made it nearly impossible to fire an officer for proven, and sometimes repeated, misconduct. This law strikes a better balance between accountability for abuse and protecting employee rights.

It is often referenced that MPD can’t engage in vehicular pursuits. That’s not true. But the Council did codify in law a stronger standard for when a chase is appropriate or not. In short, it must be in pursuit of someone suspected of a violent felony, and the officer has to have a reasonable understanding that it will not lead to nearby bystanders being harmed. This makes sense in an urban setting, and it follows MPD’s own General Order. The Council worked with MPD to update the law last summer. The aim is to strike a balance between the highly dangerous nature of high-speed pursuits for the surrounding community with the interest of making an arrest and getting a bad actor off the streets. The law gives MPD the flexibility it needs while protecting officers and the public.

Many states and cities passed similar police transparency and accountability laws and saw declines in crime in 2023.

Fiction: The doomed criminal code reform was so extreme it was ultimately struck down by President Biden.

Anyone who followed the congressional hysteria about the Revised Criminal Code Act knew this was a fact-free effort that was entirely a right-wing attack on the President and Democrats using our home as a vehicle. It was a best practices bill from an independent commission that had spent 15 years cleaning up DC’s sprawling and contradicting criminal laws, including making many penalties tougher. DC’s current criminal code (the one in place for the 2023 crime spike) is considered one of the worst in the United States based on its inconsistency, missing legal definitions, and lack of proportionality. It hasn’t been reformed in more than 100 years. President Biden and some Democrats caved to disinformation in vetoing the proposed bill, rather than taking a stand for the District, while knowing the entire time that the bill was being grossly misrepresented. So DC is still stuck with one of the worst criminal codes in the nation, and the crimes happening today are taking place with the current laws on the books.

That’s the disadvantage DC residents face — our local issues regularly get spun into national punching bags free of fact or respect for our residents and autonomy.

Remind me. What was the criminal code reform?

Before Charles was elected, the Council created a special commission to clean up our entire disorganized and messy criminal code, containing such absurd laws as making the riding of a horse over 8 miles per hour illegal. This commission included local and federal prosecutors, defense attorneys, and criminal law experts from local law schools. The Revised Criminal Code Act was their work product and was completed and submitted to the Council in 2021. It had a clear and consistent set of definitions, reflected increasing severity for crimes based on specific facts, and closed gaps in the law — particularly our gun laws (some of which were eventually included in Secure DC, a bill now before the Council).

When the bill was referred to his committee, Charles Allen held more than 30 hours of public hearings. He made many changes to reflect the concerns of the Mayor, MPD Police Chief Contee, US Attorney Matt Graves, and the Courts. Very little in the bill was out of line with what is currently in place in a majority of states, and many portions followed the Model Penal Code. Additionally, there was a three-year delay before it would have taken effect, pushing implementation to at least 2026 even if it had passed.

The bill passed the Council twice unanimously, and yet was vetoed by the Mayor with little warning despite her saying repeatedly she agreed with 95% of the bill. This veto was then overridden by the Council, and the bill was sent to Congress as all local laws are. It became the subject of obsession for Republican members of the House of Representatives who sought ways to make crime a national issue and grossly misrepresented the law for their own political agenda – despite many penalties in their own states being lower than those proposed. Ultimately, President Biden and many congressional Democrats caved to these baseless attacks, and the bill was overturned in Congress. No section or provision in the bill was ever implemented.

The 2023 crime spike that made DC an outlier from most of the country took place under the current code and our existing maximum penalties, some of the highest in the country above even so called “red states.” DC continues to have one of the most dysfunctional criminal codes in the 50 states.

Fiction: Charles Allen tried to get rid of the carjacking statute as the crime increased.

False. As part of the proposed Revised Criminal Code Act, the independent commission recommended moving the offense of carjacking under the robbery statute, instead of keeping it as a standalone crime. Charles rejected that recommendation and maintained it as a stand-alone crime. It would have had a 24-year max penalty under the Revised Criminal Code.

The 2023 crime spike, including of carjacking offenses, took place under the current code’s 40-year+ max sentence.

Fiction: The Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA) opened the jail doors.

False. The role of the YRA – a sentencing law for eligible young people – has been greatly exaggerated. It applies to approximately less than three percent of all cases tried in court. The law has existed since 1985, modeled after a federal law in place since the 1950s. In 2017, one of Charles Allen’s first focuses was reforming the law to make it work better, and the Council unanimously approved the final bill. It is a voluntary law that gives judges discretion in sentencing, but it is never mandatory. After an eligible person completes their sentence, they can then apply to have their conviction sealed, meant to help remove barriers to employment, jobs, and housing and proven to reduce recidivism. Young people who were able to seal their record and move forward were found to be more than 3x less likely to reoffend. A caveat: the courts and law enforcement will always be able to see these criminal records and use them in sentencing decisions – just not the public. The final reform bill Charles Allen moved through the Council restricted the law from applying to the most serious violent crimes and sex offenses, and importantly, required the Mayor to provide services to young adults impacted by the law.