DC police force at its lowest in decades

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The D.C. police force has shrunk to its lowest level in decades.

New records obtained by fox 5 show the number of sworn officers with a gun and a badge has fallen hundreds of officers below 3,800.

The figure former police chief Cathy Lanier said would be "trouble" if it ever came to be.

At a recent dc city council hearing interim police chief Peter Newsham said the size of the force was 3, 729 but as fox 5 has learned approximately 270 of those officers have not been assigned guns and are not on patrol.

Officials knew it was coming - warnings were issued by the union -and now that it's here the dc city council, the mayor and the interim chief are scrambling to find ways to not only recruit but retain and bring back officers who have already retired.

Testifying at the city council Monday interim chief Newsham was asked by ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie how many officers were available for patrol.

"Of the 3, 729 sworn officers you mentioned that approximately 250 are recruits so i guess my question is of the recruits or in the academy are they actually in the position that they are actually on the street yet?" McDuffie asked Newsham. His response - "And that is the number i am going to have to clarify for you because to tell you exactly how many are in the academy and you do know we bring some of those recruits out of the academy to serve on the holiday detail."

In an effort to get a true accounting of how many dc police officers were available to actually serve and protect in the city fox 5 asked the police department through a freedom of information act request for the actual number of officers who had been assigned a firearm. a number in theory that should provide an accurate count - 3, 459 glock handguns had been assigned as of July 1 which is 340 officers under that trouble number of 3800.

At the same hearing Newsham told the council in 2015 there were 112 resignations and 244 retirements and so far this year there have been 113 resignations and 230 retirements

Newsham listed the falling numbers beginning in 2012 - "in 2012 we had 3907, in 2013 we had 4010, in 2014 there were 3972, in 2015 we had 3837, in 2016 was 3737 and now we have 3729." Newsham declined to come up with a number that he thought the department should have to properly police the city but did tell the council that homicides were down 11 % and overall crime was down 5 %.