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Lanier: Number of cops fallen below danger level

Thursday - 3/1/2012, 3:55pm  ET

(Paul D. Shinkman)

[Live Blog Below]

WASHINGTON - The number of on-street police officers in D.C. is now below the level the chief of police said would be necessary to avoid "trouble" for public safety.

The total staff level of police officers in the city is 3,830, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said on WTOP's "Ask the Chief" on Thursday. At least 100 of these are currently in the police academy, with 40 more to support the academy, which drops the total on-street officers below her hard line of 3,800.

At a D.C. council hearing last year, the chief said "we're going to have trouble" if the police force falls below this line.

"I saw this coming," Lanier said on Thursday, adding she had "sounded the alarm" to the D.C. government two years ago about the dangers of falling below her hard line.

"It's harder for me to do what I have to do," she says. The police chief says she has had to "be creative," and make sacrifices.

Last summer, she said she was forced to eliminate 200 civilian staff positions in the previous four years due to budget cuts. She had to fill these gaps with police officers, and was not able to keep up with the roughly 14 officers retiring per month.

Before the current academy cadets, the last time she had hired new officers was June 2010.

"I feel very comfortable with my ability to police the city effectively at the 3,800 mark," she said in May. "I think this is one of those things we need to put everything we've got into."

Lanier also discussed a speed camera tactic the police chiefs of Montgomery and Prince George's counties employ to catch leadfoots. They put mobile cameras in the zones after known fixed cameras as drivers speed back up.

The D.C. police chief said she will not follow suit.

The end goal is to get drivers to slow down in specific zones, she says. The recent cameras installed around Foxhall Road that Chef Geoff protested have reduced the number of speeding tickets from 42 per hour in the first week to seven per hour now.

Learn more about Lanier's take on what to do when you're pulled over, the spike in robberies in D.C. that have spilled over into Maryland and accusations the police department is targeting gay pedophiles. Check out our Live Blog:

WTOP's Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

10:56 a.m., speaking about Occupy D.C.:

We made an arrest yesterday. They chained the doors on a building downtown.

Since National Park Police have been enforcing the camping, it's been a lot better.

10:55 a.m., speaking about easing handgun registration laws:

I think it's a good idea to remove some of the restrictions. The 4-hour training is unreasonable, we think. There are a lot of things that will make it a lot easier to get the registration period done.

10:52 a.m., speaking about officer staffing numbers:

We're at 3,830, but 100 of those are in the academy. We're below 3,800 on the street. (She had said before this is the bottom acceptable level). "I said this was coming."

It takes a year to get a police officer ready for full service. We've had 11 washouts so far of a class of 100. We also wash out a lot before they get to the academy. "That's better for us" to identify the people who are joining for the wrong reasons.

We've added a polygraph test. I'm not going to try to meet a number and sacrifice quality.

I sounded the alarm for 3,800 two years ago. It's harder for me to do what I have to do. I have to be creative, and sacrifice things to make up for other things.

10:51 a.m., speaking about the MPD award ceremony:

It's tonight at Gallaudet, to officers, citizens who have helped fight crime, and our "top cops."

Community relations, like this one, are key to our success.

10:47 a.m., speaking about Metro buses disobeying traffic laws:

We get complaints, we issue citations.

10:44 a.m., speaking about police rank-and-file officer contracts:

We can't comment on it, but I sure hope we have one soon. I'd have liked one in 2007, before the police union filed complaints.

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