D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Tuesday the near-daily protests against police use of force held in the District over the last several weeks have required 200 to 400 extra officers per day.
To provide the staffing needed to monitor the protests and redirect traffic when protesters shut down city streets, Chief Lanier has deployed additional officers rather than pulling them from beat patrol in other neighborhoods. But the extra efforts are costing the department.
“It’s very, very expensive and it’s getting to be a big strain on my police department and it’s getting to be a big strain on our ability to contain and police the neighborhoods,” Chief Lanier said Tuesday in an interview on NewsChannel 8’s “NewsTalk” program.
Chief Lanier didn’t give an estimate of the cost to D.C. taxpayers for police management of the protests.
The last long-term protests in the city, the Occupy demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, racked up a bill of about $1.6 million for taxpayers within the first three months. The District asked the federal government to reimburse the city for the costs associated with the encampments erected at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza — sites controlled by the National Park Service.
An Al Sharpton-led march on Saturday drew thousands of protesters who were demanding police accountability in the wake of the recent decisions not to bring charges against police officers in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, after the deaths of two black men at the hands of police. But smaller protests drawing a couple dozen to a couple hundred protesters have popped up frequently around the U Street and Chinatown corridors of the city in the weeks since the decisions.
In the interview Tuesday, Chief Lanier said police have allowed protesters to block traffic for short periods of time but said she can’t let the protests go unchecked.
“You back traffic up in Washington, D.C., and somebody needs an ambulance. Somebody’s going to die,” Chief Lanier said. “You can’t back traffic up indefinitely.”
She also warned that police have seen a difference in behavior between the protesters and those who remain behind after demonstrations have ended, with the lingering individuals at times “terrorizing people.”
The chief also appeared to be making a plea to protesters to scale back on the demonstrations.
“All of these protests that are blocking traffic, it’s pulling police officers out of the neighborhoods that need the police the most,” she said. “So how do I prevent homicides and shootings and violent crimes and robberies and burglaries right before the holidays if all my cops are directing traffic around 30 guys that want to be out there at 11 o’clock at night laying in the middle of Chinatown?”