- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

D.C. Council member Vincent Gray has introduced emergency legislation that would provide retention bonuses for the police force, whose ranks have shrunk to a 10-year low.

The legislation would offer officers who have reached retirement age a five-year contract extension, with double salary in the fifth year, as an incentive to stay in the Metropolitan Police Department.

At the end of 2015, the department employed fewer than 3,800 officers, well below the 4,200 officers that leaders have said were needed to police the District.

“In 2011, then-Chief Cathy Lanier publicly stated that ‘we’re going to have trouble’ if the police force fell below 3,800 officers,” said Mr. Gray. “Chief Lanier was right. We have serious trouble now. Violent crime and homicides are plaguing some of our neighborhoods.

“This transfer of resources will immediately allow officers who otherwise would have retired or transferred to extend their service and be rewarded with a one-time retention bonus, which will have no impact on their pensions once they retire,” the Ward 7 Democrat said.

Several other council Democrats, including Anita Bonds, at-large; Jack Evans, Ward 2; Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5; Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3; and Trayon White Sr., Ward 8, signed on to support the measure.

The Force of 4,200 Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Emergency Act of 2017 would place $63.8 million of revenue from traffic fines into a police department workforce investment fund, which would administer the retention bonuses.

As emergency legislation, the measure will not face a committee hearing or public testimony. Unlike normal legislation, it will face only one council vote instead of two and no congressional review.

However, emergency legislation can be in effect for only up to 90 days, so a permanent measure, with hearings and two votes before the council, eventually would need to be enacted to keep the program afloat.

Lawmakers will vote on the bill Feb. 7, which Mr. Gray says “will give time for additional ideas to be considered to improve recruitment and retention.”

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Muriel Bowser, said the mayor had not seen the legislation but already was moving to improve officer recruitment.

“Since taking office, the mayor has pursued a comprehensive agenda to fight crime, which includes not just modernizing our police force and boosting recruitment, but also doing a better job at addressing many issues outside of law enforcement that can contribute to crime,” Mr. Harris said.

He noted a series of bills that the Democratic mayor had signed that were “aimed at shrinking the number of officers leaving the force while at the same time boosting recruitment.”

Mr. Harris also pointed to improved officer retention rates over the past year. In fiscal 2016, attrition rates fell by 7 percent and hiring increased by 2 percent.

He also said Miss Bowser is focusing on other policies that could help bring crime down rather than just staffing up the force to a certain level.

“The mayor’s goal is to not only ensure the police department has the resources it needs, but that we are also aggressively implementing policies in areas outside of law enforcement that can contribute to the city being a safer place,” Mr. Harris said.

Mr. Gray’s move could position himself as a “tough on crime” candidate if he runs against Miss Bowser in next year’s mayoral election.

Since retaking his seat on the council, the former mayor has hammered Miss Bowser on the spike in homicides since she took office in 2015. Homicides in Ward 7 rose from 32 in 2015 to 39 last year.

Mr. Gray fared a little better in the four years he was mayor. In his first two years, his home ward reported 25 homicides in 2011 and 27 in 2012. In his latter two years, Ward 7 homicides numbered 22 in 2013 and 26 in 2014, according to police statistics.

“Ward 7 has arguably been the hardest hit by this surge in violence, and while some areas of the city saw modest improvements to violent crime stats in 2016 over the previous year, homicides and violent criminal activity in Ward 7 has continued to surge,” Mr. Gray said.


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