“Is the Mayor directing police officers to gather signatures for a petition?”

via DC.gov

“Dear PoPville,

I was walking to the grocery store past 11th and Constitution NE and I had passed two on-duty police officers standing on the corner (the officers were seemingly on-duty, but I did not ask them. They had a patrol car and were in full uniform). One of the officers had politely asked me if I wouldn’t mind signing a petition to help put in place the Mayor’s plan to help end homelessness in the community. While I’m all about helping to end homelessness, I’m always hesitant to sign anything. I asked the officer for more information about the Mayor’s plan, and she could not provide any – she had just said it would support whatever plan the mayor proposes. I ultimately declined my signature and said that I would like to wait until I have more information about the plan.

I’d like to get the community’s thoughts on the following questions: Has the Mayor unveiled a detailed plan to end homelessness? Is the Mayor directing police officers to gather signatures for a petition? If so, does the Mayor have the right to do this? Shouldn’t we be making better use of police officers’ time, especially during these times of high crime?

The situation just rubbed me the wrong way, so I thought I would write to see what others think about it.”

Not sure about directing police officers to gather signatures but from the Mayor’s Office:

The Bowser Administration announced two legislative proposals that will be introduced later this month to strengthen the District’s homeless crisis response system. The first would amend the Homeless Services Reform Act to create an interim eligibility placement provision. This legislative provision would allow additional time for the District to determine shelter eligibility while at the same time ensuring the safety of families who have no identified safe alternative by providing them with shelter on an interim basis. The legislation would also provide families with a fair and speedy appeals process if it is determined they are not eligible for emergency shelter.

The second proposed legislative solution would clarify that the District may develop emergency housing that adheres to a private room requirement. These new emergency housing facilities will be safe, clean, modern developments with private rooms for families and the amenities and services they need to succeed in the long run.

You can read the full release here.

16 Comment

  • We will never end homelessness unless VA and MD get their butts in gear. Arlington cops should not be telling the homeless to “go to DC b/c they’ll take care of you there”… as I’ve witnessed on many occasions.

    • You are absolutely right. I’ve actually been down to the Virginia Williams Center, where they handle services for many of the homeless and most of the people there are not originally from DC or have been gone a long time. They come here because we have a right to shelter law and they are taking advantage of it. One woman has been living in the N.C. for well over a decade (she was maybe 19 or so) but came back to get free shelter and social services. And, she had 3 kids in tow…

      Welcome to the Bowser era! Style and image over substance. Instead of having the cops out doing their job when crime is surging, she has them out gathering signatures. That’s what you get when you appoint your campaign guru and chief fundraiser as the Chief of Staff.

      • I’m co signing on this. Its a National problem that needs a national solution. Offering more beds just going to garner more attention from Homeless in MD and VA. You can’t attack a national problem with local appropriations.

      • Year-round right to shelter for families was announced last week as a part of Bowser’s plan. Previously, families only had right to shelter during hypothermia season.

  • I notice this too, maybe on Thursday last week, came home from work and there were lots of cops around, I went over to Morgan’s seafood because Romeo always know what’s up and encountered a cop trying to get me to sign on to the Mayor’s Plan to End Homelessness. The two things that stuck me were that Ending Homelessness sounded awful ambitious and second that I had a uniformed Cop asking me to sign a form for the Mayor, typically can’t get a cop in the neighborhood when we want them, but I guess if the Mayor needs some signatures they are out in force

  • andy

    Maybe it’s all just an elaborate ploy – first pretend the vice squads were eliminated by MPD, then flood the streets with petition-seekers, whom everyone tries to ignore even if they are police officers, then when these same cops see synthetic drug transactions, they LEAP into action…! BOOM!

    Totally plausible, right?

  • I know the Mayor had announced a major initiative to help the homeless but I’m not sure of the details. However, using police officers to gain signatures even for the most well intentioned effort is a bit misguided and seems a bit authoritative. Uniformed police officers can be an intimidating presence, even if they approach you in the friendliest way possible. Folks could feel like they have to sign the petition. It would make more sense to recruit some community-based organizations that help the homeless and have them volunteer to gain signatures. They would also be better informed to answer questions about the issue and the initiative. Officers should NOT be working the signature beat, IMO.

    • “Folks could feel like they have to sign the petition.”
      I’m assuming this is what Bowser was going for.

    • Or how about, you’re the Mayor. You don’t need a petition, that YOU organized, to do something you want to do anyways. If anything, you can have people out distributing information about your plan and informing the public, but this seems like a waste of time and money and the set up for a very thinly veiled publicity stunt.

  • niceflipflop

    Possibly a violation of the Hatch Act?

    // not a lawyer.

    • I was wondering about this too. Aren’t employees of the executive branch not supposed to lobby members of the legislative branch unless they’re doing so as private citizens, rather than in their official capacities?

      • niceflipflop

        I wasn’t even considering the act of lobbying members of the leg branch…I’m more concerned with them endorsing a political position/initiative/campaign in front of citizens, while wearing the uniform and in the line of duty, and therefore, in their official capacity as police officers.

        No one could ever paint homelessness as an *inherently* political issue in and of itself. But the means by which it is managed (budget, methodology, benchmarks) are absolutely political. Otherwise, why would you need to petition in the first place?

        This seems crazy to me. Any lawyers familiar with the Hatch Act care to weigh in?

    • Strikes me as a pretty blatant violation. Red flags everywhere with regards to this. One can express a political opinion, but one cannot engage in political activities, or direct (as a supervisor) somebody to engage in a political activity. Collecting signatures for a petition is a political activity.

  • What’s also interesting is that 11th and Constitution NE is very much a neighborhood area, with not a lot of foot traffic as compared to the nearby Eastern Market area where people typically go to gather signatures for petitions. Why not go to a more well traveled area?

  • DC1

    An absolute waste of resources! At least the commander is now being investigated http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/DC-Police-Official-Made-Officers-Collect-Signatures-for-Mayors-Pledge-Police-Say-325801881.html

    And of course Bowser denies asking for that ‘favor’.

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