WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s latest budget paves the way for 347 police officers to be hired this fiscal year so that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) can be closer to reaching 4,000 total members.
The head of the D.C. Council has responded to the mayor's budget with a request to audit the police department.
Earlier this month, Council Chair Phil Mendelson sent a request to D.C. Auditor Kathleen Patterson asking for among other things, a review of staffing levels, staffing responsibilities, and the impact of civilian department members on police duties. The request does not specifically ask whether more officers should be hired, according to Mendelson’s office.
"If they’re proposing an audit as a way to sidestep that responsibility, I’m opposed to it," said Mayor Bowser when recently asked about the audit request.
Another issue the mayor expressed concern about was how many MPD members would need to be involved for the D.C. Auditor to conduct the review.
"I can’t afford for those people to be occupied with anything other than crime-fighting right now, so that would be my concern," she added.
The Mayor’s calls to hire more officers arrive as the District continues to deal with a crime wave that swelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, murders in the District hit a number not seen in nearly two decades. And according to MPD, total violent crime is up 28% from this same time last year.
The D.C. Police Union recently released a YouTube ad blaming the D.C. Council Chair along with the Chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee for the spike in crime and drop in police department numbers.
The D.C. Council had passed legislation that curtailed police actions after national anti-police brutality protests in 2020. The council and the mayor have gone back and forth about who’s responsible for pulling police funding. However, it appears some attitudes toward policing in the District have changed – in the past year especially.
D.C. isn’t the only city seeing an increase in crime. Groups like the Pew Research Center and the FBI reported an unprecedented spike in murders nationwide in 2020.
MPD confirmed with FOX 5 on Tuesday there are currently 3,522 sworn members — a figure "well below" previous department counts, according to The Washington Post.
MPD provided FOX 5 with the following breakdown of its 3,522 members:
- Total officers working on patrols and not desk assignments2,907 total sworn members working on patrol615 sworn members assigned in a non-patrol role
- Officers not currently working for medical purposes
120 total sworn members on long term sick leave
143 total sworn members on limited duty
- Officers on some type of no contact, desk assignment or leave due to an investigation8 sworn members on administrative leave8 sworn members on indefinite suspension53 sworn members on non-contact31 sworn members on military leave
- Officers slated for retirement/attrition this year60 separations currently scheduled
The breakdown appears to show about 82.5% of its 3,522 members working on patrol and about 5% on some kind of leave, medical or due to an investigation (military leave not included in that estimate). Long before this crime wave, other District officials have been calling for more officers to be hired.
The last time the D.C. Auditor’s Office studied patrol services was about seven years ago. Looking at a very small sample, the office found officers were only spending about 22% of their time on service calls. This was much less than the time other departments were spending on service calls, signifying a red flag for the D.C. Auditor.
"If for example, that 22% figure was throughout the department and a solid number, which I say it was very tiny sample, if that were true it would mean we possibly need fewer officers on patrol," Patterson said. "We need fewer officers overall. So it just merits study." Patterson told FOX 5 that from what she’s seen and heard, many community members are concerned with police visibility and response time.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee recently told the D.C. Council that response times have increased up to 90 seconds due to staffing shortages and the increase in crime. This is something Patterson tells FOX 5 an audit could analyze.
Patterson said her office put a request for a proposal out to see what firms with law enforcement expertise would be available and willing to participate. Once audit beings, it can take up to 10-to-12 months to complete, Patterson told FOX 5.
A spokesperson for Council Chair Mendelson’s office told FOX 5 the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee is expected to vote on the police budget this week. The entire council is then expected to vote on the mayor’s full budget on May 10th, with a second vote planned for May 24th.