The Metropolitan Police Department will add officers to its street patrols instead of its Special Operations Division (SOD) as it had planned since the terrorist attacks, the department’s No. 2 official said yesterday.
The department had planned to increase the SOD’s 300-officer force which provides riot control, dignitary protection and helicopter, river and horse patrols after many officers on street patrols were deployed to protect federal and city facilities after September 11.
“It would seem unlikely at this point,” Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said of that plan. “You can only do so much at the expense of the [neighborhood police] districts.”
Chief Gainer said he is evaluating how to deploy the department’s 3,650 officers to cover the city’s neighborhoods.
“One of the primary concerns of the public is our staffing levels in the districts,” he said.
D.C. Council members have complained that a reduction in the number of officers patrolling city streets is at least partly responsible for an increase in violent crime.
The Washington Times first reported this month that the city recorded 51 homicides between September 11 and Nov. 1, about double the rate before the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, yesterday said the City Council has been waiting since April 1 for an official police report on manpower in the neighborhoods.
She said she met Tuesday with Chief Charles H. Ramsey and asked for the report.
Mrs. Patterson said the department should have 1,600 officers on street patrols, but actually has only 1,300 in the neighborhoods. Many officers listed as being on beats are disabled or off-duty for other reasons, she said.
“It has been an issue with the council for a number of years. It was an issue for us last year. It was an issue for us on September 10. It is an issue for us today,” Mrs. Patterson said. “The problem was exacerbated when we had so many officers filling federal functions.”
Chief Gainer said police officials are considering SOD manpower in discussions on shifting officers form special units and administrative jobs to street patrols, but Chief Ramsey has not yet approved any changes.
“It is too early to tell [what units will be affected],” Chief Gainer said. “This is the first time we have done a complete manpower evaluation. It has been two years since we shook the trees to see what we had.”