WASHINGTON - The U.S. Census Bureau says the District of Columbia is growing by about a thousand residents a month. However, this is taxing the public safety and EMS resources now in place in the city.
The police department in the city is shrinking while the fire department is struggling to get new apparatus to keep up with the demand for calls for service.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed both of those subjects with FOX 5. She said the shrinking police force has not come as a shock to anyone and efforts are underway to keep up with the attrition.
At the same time, nearly three months after the D.C. Council voted to put private ambulances on the street to handle basic emergencies, it is not going to happen anytime soon.
In 2013, D.C. Fire and EMS ran 167,335 calls for service. In 2014, the number jumped to 179,319 calls for service.
According to two sources, the number of calls have soared this year to more than 213,000 and counting.
With a depleted fleet, the fire department has struggled to keep up. In early October, the city council approved a plan to put private ambulances into service to handle the most basic calls. It is a plan that is still a ways off from being put into place.
On Tuesday, the Office of Contracting and Procurement confirmed the contract has still not been put out for bid.
"We're still working on a contract with a provider, so as soon as we are able to do that, then we will work on the training, implementation and then we will get rolling,” said Mayor Bowser. “I don't want to put a timeframe on it because it's the sort of thing – first, we have to get the contract vehicle right and we have an obligation to the taxpayers to do that. But we also want to make sure that we roll it out when it's ready.”
As for the police force, the retirement bubble has arrived and the size of the department has now fallen to below 3,800 officers. It is a number D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said previously would mean trouble if it happened.
The police union says officers are leaving because of toxic management and crippling schedules. But the mayor stood firmly behind the police chief.
"We have utilized all of our resources, including police overtime, to make sure we have seen no decrease in presence, especially in areas where we need it,” Bowser said. “So let me just also repeat that having a dip in the number of officers is not a surprise to anyone. Everybody knew that this day was coming -- a year when many people on the force would be eligible to retire. So we want to attack it.
“First, we also want to make sure that officers who are doing administrative jobs are on the street. We have a package in front of the council to ask them for more authority to do that. We do want to ask the right questions so that we can attract and retain officers at the beginning and at the end of their careers. We also want to make sure that we are working hand-in-hand with communities in deploying officers and we have five target areas where we need it the most.”
In an effort to retain some officers, the mayor came up with an incentive program that includes money for education. But she was unable to say whether anyone on the force has stepped up to take it.