WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is preparing to ask the D.C. Council for more money to bolster a shrinking police force. Those funds would go toward increased salaries for officers the police chief would like to retain.
The request will come through legislation expected to be introduced next month. It is just one of several ideas the Mayor's Office is working on to stem the tide of a retirement bubble.
The Metropolitan Police Department continues to shrink and is at its lowest level in more than a decade. Less than 3,800 officers are now on the force, which D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said would be trouble for the city when it comes.
But in recent weeks, Mayor Bowser and her staff have come up with some new strategies to include hiring more officers from other police departments.
For many years, the police department has been able to retain officers eligible to retire by bringing them back to the force as senior police officers. They can collect their pensions and stay on the job for an annual salary of $68,000. It is a pay scale that is typically less than what they were making.
In order to sweeten the pot, the mayor wants to now offer these senior officers salaries that range from $68,000 to $166,000 – or what an assistant chief now makes on the force.
"We have right now only about 40 senior police officers and this is a tool that we have that is a very strong enticement to be able to bring back often recently retired officers who love being cops, who would rather be a cop than take any other of the many job offers that retired officers typically get,” said Kevin Donahue, the District’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.
If approved, the plan would be seamless and potentially attract dozens of more experienced officers back to the job.
According to Donahue, the force currently stands at 3,750 officers. Mayor Bowser would like to bolster those numbers with lateral hires – experienced officers already working at other departments who would like to come to the District for a starting salary of just over $53,000.
“The difference now is that we changed the academy program so that if you are a lateral hire, you are an experienced police officer in a different jurisdiction, you can get on the street in eleven weeks,” said Donahue. “They have to understand our laws and make up for training that is typically higher than in other jurisdictions.”
A typical new recruit takes far longer than eleven weeks to train and the deputy mayor said the plan is to now graduate as many as 360 officers a year in hopes of getting the size of the force back to 4,000.
Officers who have been on the job for 25 years and have reached the age of 50 are eligible to retire.
In recent months, Delroy Burton, the former head of the police union, said many officers were leaving because they were fed up with what has been described as toxic management and unworkable schedules.
We reached out to Chief Lanier for comment on the plan but we have not heard back.