Councilmember Gray “Introduces Legislation to Increase Number of Police Officers”

photo by Eric P.

From a press release:

“D.C. Councilmember Vincent C. Gray introduced legislation to retain high quality police officers and enhance efforts to recruit new police.

Gray’s legislation, the “Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Act of 2023,” is multi-faceted and seeks to address numerous issues that have resulted in a steep decline in the number of sworn officers employed by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

At present, MPD employs 3,386 sworn officers. In 2013, the number was 4,010. Alarmingly, a precipitous decrease of nearly 500 officers since 2018 has coincided with an increase in homicides to levels not seen in 20 years.

Gray’s legislation will:

Authorize the mayor to provide bonuses equal to one year of salary to police officers who are eligible for retirement, provided those officers delay retirement by 5-years. This should incentivize veteran officers with valuable experience to continue to serve our communities;
Restore collective bargaining rights and undo changes in workplace practices imposed by the Council that have made MPD a less-attractive employer to current and potential police officers. This should aid in retaining experienced officers and attracting new recruits at a time when MPD ranks are being reduced by nearly 100 officers per year, and;
Authorize the mayor to fund any other negotiated recruitment and retention incentives for sworn officers.

Six years ago, Gray foresaw the challenges MPD is confronting today.

In 2017, his “Force of 4,200 – Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Emergency Act” sought to stem attrition and attract new talent to MPD. Unfortunately, the then-chair of the Judiciary Committee did not hold a hearing on the legislation; subsequently, it died. Now, MPD has nearly 500 fewer officers and public safety is the top concern of District residents.

“In the District today, we have fewer police officers than at any moment in the past 20 years. At the same time, we are experiencing a 20-year high in homicides. Tragic and brazen crimes are in the headlines nearly every day. School children are robbed at gunpoint. Our roads are increasingly dangerous. Sadly, the list goes on,” said Gray. “After a horrendous crime or crime spree, we hear residents call for more police. The frustrating reality is that there are no more police. When we assign a patrol to a neighborhood, Metro station or anywhere else, we are taking that resource away from a different location.”

“In 2011, then-Chief Cathy Lanier stated that ‘we’re going to have trouble’ if we fall below 3,800 sworn officers. Lanier was right. We have serious trouble now. Homicides, car-jackings, and robberies against residents and businesses plague our neighborhoods,” said Gray, whose four years as mayor were the four years with the least homicides in the past 50 years.

“Chief Lanier wanted 4,000 officers. When I was mayor we were able to achieve that mark. In turn, we saw homicides reduced to a generational low. Indeed, one look at homicide rates compared with the number of MPD officers is eye-opening. Throughout the past 20 years, when we have more police we see a reduced number of homicides,” said Gray. “I applaud Mayor Bowser in stating her desire to increase the ranks of MPD and I hope that my legislation assists her in achieving that objective.”

“Our goal should be to have the best police department in the country. We must create conditions that reward high-quality officers and attract the finest recruits,” said Gray. “We can reform policing and improve public safety at the same time. It is clear that some well-intended efforts to reform policing have had unintended consequences. Police attrition is having a deleterious effect on public safety. As public officials we often must do two things at once. In this instance, we must continue our reform efforts, but at the same time not preside over a dwindling police department and eroding public safety.”

“I have and will continue to support a wide range of programs and efforts that steer people away from crime and protect public safety. Education, economic opportunity, violence interruption, mental health, social wraparound and other wholistic approaches work,” said Gray. “Law enforcement and community policing are also key ingredients in crime prevention. It is clear to me that we have created policies that compromise the effectiveness of MPD. We must revisit those policies, rethink them and alter our course.”

“My legislation alone is not sufficient to restore MPD to the numbers whereby it can adequately protect District residents from crime, but it is a start,” said Gray. “We are experiencing a public safety crisis. All hands on deck. I encourage my colleagues to put forward their ideas for improving public safety as quickly as possible.”

A copy of Gray’s legislation, the “Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Act of 2023,” can be found here.”

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