- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2011

D.C. officials will meet Tuesday to make sure spending pressures do not trip up plans to keep at least 3,800 Metropolitan Police Department officers on the street — a goal that was established during budget talks for the fiscal year that begins Saturday.

Police staffing became a red-letter topic during discussions of the D.C. Council’s priorities for additional revenues for fiscal 2012, with council member Phil Mendelson voting down a budget that did not rank it as the top concern.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the council were able to dedicate $10.8 million toward police staffing in mid-July through a revised budget, as talk of high attrition ratcheted up fears that the force would dwindle to unsafe levels.

The mayor’s budget director, Eric Goulet, said a failure by former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration to account for factors including longevity pay led to a potential overspending of the MPD’s budgeted appropriation in fiscal 2011.

Mr. Goulet said the meeting among his staff, Mr. Mendelson and personnel from the MPD and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer is to make sure they are prepared for the fiscal year so the oversight does not occur again as they look to hire officers.

“Making sure we get enough officers on the street, that’s the mayor’s priority,” Mr. Goulet said.

Chief Cathy L. Lanier has said the city could be in “trouble” if the ranks dipped below 3,800. An MPD spokesman did not return a request Monday for its current staffing levels.

The issue prompted council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, to introduce a bill in April that would keep 4,000 or more officers on the D.C. payroll at all times. He has said codifying the threshold in law is the best way to address the problem.

Mr. Evans raised the issue as recently as last Wednesday. In his “Jack Evans Report” for the Georgetowner, he wrote that he will be “working to increase the number of police officers that make up our force.”

“I have written and spoken about this issue many times and it remains a matter of great concern,” he added.

Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, said Monday that he has not been updated on current attrition rates, which in May he put at about 15 officers per month.

Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the D.C. police officers’ union and a frequent critic of city leadership, said the department is losing officers at an unsustainable rate and cannot hire and train officers fast enough to see adequate staffing in the short-term.

“Right now, I don’t think we can keep up with normal attrition,” he said, noting a pending “retirement bubble” that could shed more officers. “We’re just not prepared for that.”



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