- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2017


In politics it’s not merely whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Some members of the D.C. Council want to bulk up the city’s police force to 4,200. Others want to bulk up the cops’ wallets with financial incentives to keep them on the force. Stakeholders might as well moisten the tip of their pointing finger and stick it to the wind.

Perception is getting more attention than reality regarding public safety.

In some ways it’s like the public schools vs. public education debate. The former is deeply rooted liberal rhetoric designed to dismantle the latter. Oh well.

At any rate, the reality is D.C. needs to bulk up its cops on the beat and fatten officers’ wallets. Our police deserve as much.

That is the reality Cathy Lanier pointed out before stepping away as chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and into her new post as the NFL’s security chief. In fact, the then-chief said in 2001 that “we’re going to have trouble” if the force falls below 3,800. Well, hello reality.

Council members learned last fall that the number of MPD officers with guns and badges now is an estimated 3,725. So unless lawmakers and council staffers were preoccupied debating the whys and wherefores of City Hall’s new diaper-changing stations, then they are playing a political game that could easily backfire.

Here’s another reality: There are more than a dozen D.C. and federal armed law enforcement agencies in the city, and still more when armed transit, college, private and Smithsonian officers are included.

The politics of those realities is that Ward 7 Council member Vince Gray proceeded with emergency legislation to bolster the force, but ran into a majority of his colleagues who say there is no emergency. The Gray measure failed for two reasons. First, Charles Allen, the council’s new public safety chairman, wasn’t going to let Mr. Gray steal his thunder. And second, Mayor Muriel Bowser needs to go along to get along.

See, the perception is that the MPD chief is Peter Newsham — and he is, on paper. In reality, though, he’s interim chief, and Miss Bowser needs Mr. Allen’s committee to shovel through her nominee. Wink, wink.

Interestingly, you folks who visit the city or work or live here are supposed to pay attention to such insider dealing. Indeed, you may even discount it as politics as usual — but it is not.

The Bowser administration only works with the council — and the council only works with the mayor — after the deals are brokered. For sure, the only policy of modern times that unites them is resistance to White House and congressional “interference” by Democrats and Republicans.

That’s why the game that Team Bowser is playing is, shall we say, coy — and laughable. At a council hearing on Monday, the mayor’s deputy mayor for public safety said, “We have to work with [the council] to understand how to move the needle, but the 4,200 number might not be reality anymore.”

Translation: “We have to work with [the council] to understand how to move the needle on the mayor’s police chief nominee and her policy agenda, but the 4,200 number might not be reality anymore for Mayor Bowser’s nominee or the 2018 election.”

Coincidentally (yuck, yuck), Mr. Allen is scheduled to partake in a hotter-than-hot public safety discussion Feb. 18 on problems with the Youth Reform Act. In short, should the city tighten the screws or not?

The “conversation,” as it is billed, will take place in Ward 8, the area of the city where a grandmother was recently gunned down in her motorized wheelchair on her way to a neighborhood store.

MPD police cameras were properly positioned in the Southeast neighborhood where she was shot. However, the cameras were inoperable.

Public safety must not be toyed with, something Mr. Gray, former mayor, knows all too well.

Miss Bowser won the game in 2014, and now she, not Mr. Gray, is the mayor. Time will soon tell whether she’s all in on public safety.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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