Open Letter: NEAR Act Implementation and Oversight

February 20, 2018

The Stop Police Terror Project-DC (SPTP) is an organization in the DC area committed to changing the system of racist, militarized policing. SPTP members have been involved in the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act at every stage - from its conception in mid-2015 to its unanimous passage by the DC Council in March 2015 to its full funding in the FY 2018 budget.

We have been disappointed with the slow pace of NEAR Act implementation more than 18 months after the bill became law in June 2016, as well as the consistent lack of communication, transparency, public education, attention, detail, data, results, and apparent commitment we have seen from the Bowser administration thus far. Yet we remain hopeful and we are encouraged that the administration seems to be more committed to the NEAR Act now than ever before.

On a positive note, the administration recently launched a webpage meant to track their progress implementing all 20 titles of the NEAR Act and has been distributing the same “NEAR Act Implementation Status Tracker” at community events and via the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations. While we wish it had happened sooner, we wholeheartedly support and welcome the Bowser administration’s attention to NEAR Act implementation, communication, and public education. Their efforts to inform the public at community events and through a website is certainly a good -- if overdue – step.

Unfortunately, what the administration has produced is heavy on optics and light on substance, and falls far short of the level of detail or utility that the NEAR Act, the public, and the Council deserve. While the Bowser administration’s first attempt at public reporting of NEAR Act implementation status is significantly lacking, we remain hopeful that this new public relations effort, as well as the substance it is meant to communicate, will continue to improve.

To help ensure this, we’ve compiled our outstanding questions and concerns regarding NEAR Act implementation in the attached Annotation of the Bowser Administration’s NEAR Act Implementation Status Tracker. Our motivation for creating and providing this document is threefold:

  • First, we hope this document will help the Bowser administration improve their public communications surrounding NEAR Act implementation by highlighting the types of information of interest to the public.

  • Second, we hope our feedback will help the administration ensure the accuracy, detail, and utility of the information they provide to the public (and the Council) in future iterations they will produce.

  • Third, and most importantly now, we hope this document will help guide the Council’s activities during the ongoing performance oversight, and upcoming budget oversight, processes.

A large - and growing - number of your constituents are passionate about the proven, evidence-based public health approaches to reduce violence embodied in the NEAR Act. We push for the NEAR Act to be implemented properly, urgently, with fidelity, transparency, commitment, communication, and data because we care about our city and our neighbors and we want it to work.

We ask that you use your oversight authority, your platform, and your positions as leaders in our communities to help ensure the full realization of the paradigm shift you envisioned when you unanimously passed the NEAR Act in 2016. To that end, we hope you’ll help us get answers to the many questions in the attached in upcoming oversight hearings.

We believe that DC can be a model and stand ready to help you ensure the substance matches both the rhetoric and, more importantly, the need for a better way. We are eager to work with the Council and the Bowser administration to make the NEAR Act a success. We hope you’ll help us ensure that our government continues to make progress with the urgency, transparency, and commitment that the proven, life-saving approaches in the NEAR Act both deserve and require.

Thank you for your time and leadership.

In Solidarity,

The Stop Police Terror Project - DC