DC Police Chief Says Staffing Shortages Are Causing Emergency Response Delays

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D.C.'s chief of police says staffing shortages are starting to cause delays in emergency responses.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee told the D.C. Council those delays and an uptick in crime are reasons new police funding and recruiting need to ramp up quickly.

Voters seem to agree.

A new poll by NBC News poll found 75% of likely voters are more likely to support a candidate who advocates for more police funding.

Contee told city council members that it is now taking an additional 90 seconds to get help in emergency situations, saying that’s an extra minute-and-a-half waiting for help and an extra minute-and-a-half for a suspect to get away.

In a virtual hearing before the city council’s Public Safety Committee, Contee defended the mayor’s budget of $532 million – a 3% increase – and told council members in order to attract and retain new recruits, he needs to offer signing bonuses, take-home cars and money for tuition.

Contee said no matter how many officers he has, MPD has to show up.

“When the rubber meets the road in the District of Columbia, people look to and expect the Metropolitan Police Department to perform, whether it’s for truckers, whether it’s for an incident, whatever it is, the onus and the responsibility falls on us to deal with,” Contee said.

Currently, the department has 3,552 officers, including recruits, and the force will not be up to its authorized strength of 3,800 officers until 2028 with the goal of 4,000 officers not coming until 2031.

Contee said he will not compromise on qualifications.

“We’ve seen recently in Chicago and other places – and I refuse to do this – but other agencies are beginning to lower their standards, dropping their education requirements, in an effort to build up their pipeline,” he said.

Right now, the department relies on overtime.

Contee told the council the department used 1.1 million hours of overtime in each of the past two fiscal years – equivalent to 550 additional officers each year.

None of the council members objected to any of the proposals in the budget Wednesday. Instead, they focused on the money and how it will be spent.

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