Union details DC police's 'manpower crisis'

- The D.C. Police Union has recently gone on the offensive using social media to inform the public of what it calls the "manpower crisis" on the force.

This week, the union used Twitter to put out a detailed report on the reasons officers are leaving the department and the consequences of a shrinking police force.

For some time now, the police union has been sounding the alarm about the dwindling force and the reasons behind it. But this week, they decided to lay it all out in an easy-to-read explainer.

They are citing what it calls toxic management and crippling schedules as two of the reasons why officers are leaving the force.

For example, the union says 233 officers retired between January and October of this year. But more eye-opening is the fact that 114 of them resigned.

The police union also says 22 percent or 800 officers have left the force since January of 2014.

The union says this is the brutal reality of the non-competitive pay, onerous scheduling and the absence of real policing.

The size of the force has now fallen below 3,800 officers -- a number that had Police Chief Cathy Lanier worried as far back as 2011.

“I've said all along I thought we would be safe for a period of time at 3,800,” Chief Lanier said back in 2011. “I think once we go below 3,800, we are going to have trouble.”

The union says that trouble has arrived with officers discouraged from self-initiating investigations for fear it will take them away from high-visibility assignments.

Fewer detectives are available for follow-up investigations and case closures.

Capitals and Wizards games are staffed by "skeleton crews.”

The union says there are so few crime scene technicians that there may be only one or two working the whole city at any given time.

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, who sits on the Public Safety Committee, says she is concerned by the attrition and brain drain.

“I don't know whether all of the claims of the union are correct, true or completely true, but I do think something is going on and I do think we have to address it in some way,” said Cheh. “I am hoping the top administration from the deputy mayor to the police chief and so on can begin focus on whatever the cause is and to address it.”

But in a statement to FOX 5, Chief Lanier counters the union’s claims by saying the department has found innovative ways to keep officers on the street.

They have hired more civilians, handed over cell block duties and guarding arrestees at hospitals to the Department of Corrections. They have launched a new record management system that has saved more than 200,000 man hours.

The chief says the department is also offering a retention program with education incentives to officers.

The chief also notes that serious crime overall is down five percent.

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