MPD to face budget cuts

If you feel that cutting MPD’s budget will hurt the city, jeopardize public safety and undermine the great crime reduction MPD has achieved under Chief Lanier, let our City Council know your thoughts.

Email CM Harry Thomas at . CM at Large Phil Mendelson at , CM at Large Michael Brown and Council Chair Kwame Brown, CM at Large Catania at  and Mayor Gray.
Washington Examiner: D.C. police chief finally concerned that cop numbers
are dropping
By: Harry Jaffe 03/21/11
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said budget cuts have forced the department to shortchange training and recruitment.

You had to wait hours into Friday’s Judiciary Committee hearing
to hear Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s bomblet.

The number of sworn officers in the nation’s capital stands at 3,875,
the numbers are heading south at a rate of 15 a month, and the
department has quit hiring. If and when we reach 3,800, Lanier
testified, we could be in trouble,

“How did we get here?” Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson

With all due respect to the chairman, who I have come to admire more
and more as he begins to tighten his grip on crime-fighting tools, he
has not been paying attention to my screaming columns for the past two
years. Seasoned cops are leaving the force, young street cops are
frustrated by the department’s punitive disciplinary system, retirees
can’t wait to flee. The result is a thin blue line that is beginning to
break as the city approaches another crime season of heat and hostility.

“Cutting my budget,” Lanier responded.

Numbers don’t lie. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty balanced his budget on the
backs of the cops when he couldn’t borrow or dip into reserves. The
city council, including Mendelson, was complicit in reducing funds for
law enforcement.

Lanier has dealt with the falling funds by cutting training and
recruitment. Do the math: The department loses an average of 15 cops a
month, through attrition and retirement; by Lanier’s count, we run into
trouble at 3,800, and the city becomes less safe. That means we can
expect to see a crime wave in about five months, which puts us in

At the hearing, Lanier told Mendelson she might have enough money to
recruit 30 new officers in August. “Might” is the operative word. Given
the rising crime rates, that might not suffice.

According to the department’s latest numbers, homicides are up 18
percent so far this year compared to 2010. We hit number 20 when Gary
Gordon, a senior at Anacostia High, was shot dead Sunday afternoon.
Burglary is up 23 percent, theft up 25 percent, and theft from cars up
20 percent.

Robbery with a gun is down 20 percent, to 200. And that’s supposed to
make us feel safe?

That’s the bottom line. Do we feel safe? At what cost?

“We have a choice,” says police union boss Kristopher Baumann. “We can
use taxpayer money to keep residents safe, or we can continue to fund
giant bureaucracies in agencies that produce little, if any, widespread
public benefit.”

That’s easy to say, at a time of shrinking revenues and rising
deficits. But sometimes the choices do come down to basics: The
government has a fundamental duty to provide public education, public
health and public safety. And pick up the trash. And keep the streets

And that’s it.

At Friday’s hearing, Mendelson asked Lanier what she needed. She
promised to get back to him. How about we start by adding $60 million,
which includes the amount cut from the cops and adds enough to hire
enough officers to keep us safe?

Harry Jaffe’s column appears on Tuesday and Friday. He can be contacted

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