WASHINGTON (AP) — The District of Columbia police department would be required to maintain 4,000 sworn officers under legislation aimed at addressing concerns about attrition on the force.
District Councilman Jack Evans said his bill introduced Tuesday would ensure that the department has a minimum of 4,000 officers at all times and would keep the force from further declines. He recalled how the department at one point had more than 5,000 officers but that number has steadily declined over the last 20 years.
“There’s no rhyme nor reason as to why we are where we are,” Evans told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “There’s not a community meeting that I go to where people don’t complain they don’t see enough police.”
Police Chief Cathy Lanier said last month that the department has 3,879 sworn officers, about 200 fewer than it had in June 2009, and Evans estimated that it would take about two years to return the department to 4,000. At a D.C. Council oversight hearing, the chief warned there would be trouble if the number dipped below 3,800.
The department is bracing for a sharp increase in retirements as the number of officers reaching 25 years of service continues growing next year and beyond. The looming departures come even as the department has been unable for budgetary reasons to recruit new officers through its training academy.
Evans said his bill would force the city to adequately fund the department and ensure that it is able to attract new officers. But even once the academy is again recruiting, it will likely still take months before new officers would be able to patrol the streets
Police union Chairman Kris Baumann said the bill was a good step but that it would be difficult to bring the number up to 4,000 and keep it there, especially since the department needs to offset the retirements coming in 2012.
“If they retire en masse, what is a 300-400 officer problem becomes a thousand officer problem. We have a lot of work to do,” Baumann said. “We need to try and mitigate the damage that’s already been done.”
He said the department has more federal obligations and responsibilities than others in the country and yet the number of officers per individual is below the average of large East Coast cities.
A spokeswoman for the police department had no immediate comment on the bill.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)