The D.C. Council rejected a bill designed to increase the number of the Metropolitan Police Department officers from approximately 3,700 officers to 4,200.
D.C. Council member Vincent Gray of Ward 7 proposed the Police Officer Retention and Recruitment Act last month and added an emergency measure to provide officers who are eligible for retirement and stay for an extra five years with bonuses.
The bill, defeated in a 9–4 vote, would have provided almost $64 million for the MPD to hire new officers but also retain current officers, Gray said.
An emergency measure would bypass congressional review and could have taken up to three months to enact, according to the D.C. Council’s website. D.C. bills need to get approval from Congress and the president before being enacted as law.
Council members who voted against the bill said they did so because they believed it should undergo the regular process for approval and that members should analyze the bill longer before passing it.
The proposed changes would have involved signing bonuses for when an officer joins the force and housing incentives to help give officers a more engaging role in the community.
“The sworn police officer force is inadequately staffed to be able to protect our neighborhoods,” Gray said. “No cherry picking of crime statistics is going to change that reality.”
Gray said more police officers will be necessary given a recent rise of violent crime in Ward 7, and added that the increased number of protests in the District might require more officers.
“On top of that, I foresee the volatile federal situation and likely protests downtown, further stretching our limited force even thinner in the neighborhoods this year,” he said.
Even though the bill failed, many Council members said more needed to be done to support the MPD.
Council member Charles Allen of Ward 6, who vocally opposed the act, said a great number of officers hired during a recruitment spree 25 years ago are now retiring, and that the department is suffering from a “retirement bubble.”
Although he said officer retention problems need to be addressed, Allen said instead of “locking away” $64 million for retention benefits, the D.C. Council needs to consider how the money will be used.
Allen added that he was unconvinced that more police officers on the streets would necessarily address crime rates properly.
“The data doesn’t always show that a large number of police officers translates into a safe neighborhood,” he said. “There are times in our city’s history when we’ve had well over 4,000 police officers, and we had higher crime rates than we do today.”
At-large Council member David Grosso said before enacting this legislation, he would like to see how the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act from last year would reduce crime rates.
The N.E.A.R. Act is designed to encourage community building and improvements to public health so the District can catch and help many would-be offenders before they can commit crimes, Grosso said.
“What we all need to recognize is that it’s not only on the police to stop this violence,” he said. “It’s on the entire city, it’s on every single one of us to engage every agency, every community, every neighborhood, every resident.”