DC Police See a Shortage of Officers This Year

WASHINGTON — Crime rates tend to rise in the summer and D.C.’s police department is beginning this summer with fewer officers than it has had in more than a decade.

“We’ve been as high as 4,100 and as low as [the current] 3,750,” said D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier.

“This is the lowest number of officers we’ve had since 2004,” she added.

Several measures are helping the department cope, according to Lanier:

  • Civilians now perform some police duties to free up about 100 officers for the street.
  • Police functions transferred to the Department of Corrections freed up an additional 45 officers.
  • The department’s new records management system allowed 100 officers to return to street duty.

“It doesn’t solve the problem. It makes it less of a problem, but it’s still a problem,” Lanier said.

Last summer, when there was a spike in violent crimes, the D.C. police union complained about staffing issues related to retirements when there were 3,865 sworn officers.

Lanier says the department has been hiring at capacity — adding 300 new officers — in each of the past five years.

“Unless they want me to change the standards and hire less qualified applicants, we can’t go any higher than we’re going,” Lanier said. “We have some of the toughest standards in the country to be a police officer and I’m not going to change those.”

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