- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier scheduled five more installments of her signature All Hands On Deck crime-fighting initiative, which has received mixed reviews from lawmakers and residents.

“We got such a good response from the community that Chief Lanier decided to do it again,” police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said. “It’s what residents want to see — more officers on the beat or more officers on foot patrol.”

Miss Hughes said the program will run five times over three-day periods — during which the entire department will work patrol shifts — beginning the first Friday in May. The other dates are scheduled in June, August, November and December.

But unlike last year, the three-day periods will not necessarily be on weekends. For example, the scheduled three-day periods from June 26 to 28 and from Dec. 18 to 20 occuron Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The August dates — Aug. 4-6 — fall on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Crime doesn’t always happen on the weekends. Crime occurs every day of the week, so we’re doing [All Hands on Deck] during the week,” Miss Hughes said.

Police union officials last year criticized the initiative, partly because some commanders were upset the initiative was held on weekends because they had a higher demand for officers during the week.

Chief Lanier dismissed the claim at the time and said the weekends were scheduled based on historical trends of high crime activity. She also said at the time she had not heard complaints from any commanders.

The initiative also was criticized last year by some D.C. Council members, including Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, who oversees the council’s public safety committee.

Mr. Mendelson said in November that he didn’t think the higher number of arrests made during All Hands on Deck weekends translated to less crime, considering the city saw a spike in homicides and other crimes last year.

Council members Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, echoed the sentiment as they asked for help fighting crime in the form of city services for youth involved in gang violence.

But Chief Lanier, backed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, stood by the program as an investment in community relations.

The chief in part attributed the department’s improved homicide-closure rate — 70 percent last year, compared with 64 percent in 2006 — to information gleaned from the increased interaction with residents.

Chief Lanier in January suggested the return of the initiative, saying she would use “creative” strategies to increase police visibility until she increased the size of the force “pretty significantly.”

The department’s goal is to reach 4,050 officers by October and a year later to reach 4,200, which is the authorized sworn strength of the department.

Nearly six months into the fiscal year, though, the department is about 100 officers short of its goal for this year, but recruiting officers said they expect to see a continued decline in attrition and a boost in applicants during the job-fair season.

“Between February to June or July, a lot of colleges and universities have their job fairs,” said Capt. Ricky Mitchell, who works in the department’s recruiting office.

The police force has grown a net 46 officers since Oct. 1, when the fiscal year began, according to numbers from the department. Between then and March 5, attrition was down about 29 percent from the same period last year.

Kristopher Baumann, who heads the labor committee that represents Metropolitan Police officers, said he thinks the department doesn’t offer sufficient benefits to attract enough officers to reach the goal.

“We still lack the most basic benefits that other jurisdictions have,” Officer Baumann said. “They’re going to continue to beat us in recruiting and take our officers.”

Mr. Fenty and Mr. Mendelson said they have seen no evidence to suggest the department won’t reach its goal.

“I’m confident that chief is doing everything she can to get as many officers as possible on the streets of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Fenty said.

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